Should you consider taking a fish oil supplement?

The net benefit of these popular supplements is very limited.


Image: © stocksnapper/Thinkstock

Millions of Americans swallow an amber-colored capsule of fish oil each day, lured by its alleged health benefits. In the supplement aisle of most pharmacies, supermarkets, and big-box stores, the shelves are crowded with different brands of fish oil supplements (see "Fish oil: A brief history"). Many tout benefits for the heart. In fact, the label of one popular brand includes the phrase "May reduce coronary heart disease risk."

But those bold marketing claims haven't caught up with the latest science. Earlier this year, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued an updated advisory about fish oil supplements and their cardiovascular benefits. Their verdict: Fish oil supplements may slightly lower the risk of dying of heart failure or after a recent heart attack. But they do not prevent heart disease. (A separate AHA advisory about fish consumption is slated for release in 2018.)

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