Benefits of fish oils questioned

Claims oily fish is good for people's health are not backed by strong evidence, experts say.

Researchers studied the effects of omega 3 fats on death rates, heart disease and cancer and found no evidence of a "clear benefit" on health.

In a study published into yesterday's British Medical Journal, scientists were keen to point out the importance of omega 3 fats should not be ruled out. But they said the evidence about potential benefits should be regularly reviewed.

Omega 3 fats, found in oily fish such as mackerel and fresh tuna, supplements and some plant oils, have been widely regarded as beneficial for health, with experts recommending people increase consumption of foods rich in omega 3, reports Sydney Morning Herald.

According to Bloomberg, s tudies linked the fatty acids to the low incidence of coronary heart disease in the Inuits of Greenland and indicated that people who ate white or oily fish at least once a week had a significantly reduced risk of stroke. Some of the effects of the fish on health may be from selenium or vitamin D, rather than fatty acids, the researchers said.

U.K. health guidelines encourage the general public to eat more oily fish, and higher amounts are recommended for people who have suffered heart attacks, the reviewers said. "This advice should continue at present, but the evidence should be reviewed regularly,'' they said.

Omega 3 fatty acids were added to the list of essential nutrients 75 years ago, the journal said in an accompanying editorial. "The review shows that the evidence that the fatty acids help reduce cardiovascular events and mortality is less conclusive than we believed," the journal said.

While health recommendations advise increased consumption of oily fish and fish oils, industrial fishing has depleted the world's fish stocks, the editorial said. "We probably do not have a sustainable supply of long-chain omega 3 fats."

O.Ch.

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