A new study funded by the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that fish oil supplements offer “little to no” protection against cancer.
Taking fish oil supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids has long been promoted to having a variety of positive effects on health. They were touted to lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, cancer, and even dementia.
However, researchers at the University of Anglia (UEA) have found that taking daily fish oil supplements will have no significant impact on your health.
The study looked at more than 100,000 participants who were asked to either consume more omega-3 fats through supplementation or maintain their usual intake through foods, for a year.
The researchers found that if people took fish oil supplements for nearly four years, there would be minimal effects on their health, irrespective of positive or negative effects.
Globally, the market for omega-3 supplements was estimated to be worth around $33 billion in 2018, according to the National Health Service (NHS).
Study author Dr. Lee Hooper from UEA said that the findings add to mounting evidence that fish oil or omega-3 supplements have been failing to offer consumers the benefits they claim.
“Our previous research has shown that long-chain omega 3 supplements, including fish oils, do not protect against conditions such as anxiety, depression, stroke, diabetes or death,” said Dr. Hooper. “In fact, we found that they may very slightly increase cancer risk, particularly for prostate cancer.”
In 2019, over 80 studies found no strong evidence that supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids offer health benefits to people with type 2 diabetes. Similarly, some studies have suggested that supplements do not offer protection against heart disease.
Dr. Hooper noted that it seems “unhelpful” for us to continue taking fish oil supplements that give “little or no benefit.”
The study author explained that the environmental damage linked to decreasing fish stocks is not “comparative with the minimal health benefits associated with supplements.”
The NHS recommends people to eat at least two portions of fish per week – one of which should fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel so they can get enough “healthy” fats. Please note that some fish may contain certain chemicals that could be harmful if consumed in large amounts.