Health & Wellness

Time to Ditch the Fish Oil Pills?

New findings point to the value of omega-3 fatty acids from fish in healthy aging


By Katrina Caruso


Fish oil—also known as omega-3 fatty acid—keeps popping up in headlines.

In early October, we reported that a new fish oil-based prescription drug (not a supplement) can apparently cut heart attack risk by 25% and may soon be available in Canada. In August, we wrote that a Canadian study showed that regular fish oil supplements don’t do much to lower heart attack risk. That finding is now being echoed in the results of a larger scale study published in November in The New England Journal of Medicine.

However, a long-term study published in The BMJ showed a relationship between healthy aging and high blood levels of omega-s fatty acids. In the study’s introduction, researchers address the contradictory and inconclusive findings of the medical community around fish oil.

Between 1992 and 2015, researchers studied 2,622 healthy adults whose ages averaged 74 at the study’s outset and assessed their levels of four types of omega-3s: EPA, DHA, ALA, and DPA. The group with the highest levels of omega-3s were 18% more likely to experience healthy aging—defined as being free of any chronic diseases and having no mental and physical problems. However, only EPA and DPA were found to be linked to healthy aging: EPA is found in seafood, and DPA is produced in the body (DHA is also found in seafood, while ALA comes from plants).

So, while fish oil supplements may not offer much benefit, it seems that including fatty fish in your diet can help keep us healthy as we age. The Canada Food Guide and the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommend at least two servings of fish each week, especially the fatty varieties such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.

Photo: iStock/zozzzzo.