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Q: I am so confused about omega-3 fatty acids. There is now a study out there that says it can be risky to take. Should I stop taking my supplements? —Larry T., Gainesville, Florida
A: We’re glad you asked! The study you are referring to was a new analysis included in the European Heart Journal Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy. It reviewed five randomized controlled trials examining the effects of omega-3 supplementation on cardiovascular outcomes.
Participants in these studies had high levels of triglycerides, were at increased risk for, or were diagnosed with, cardiovascular disease. A total of 50,000 participants received 0.84 grams to 4.0 grams of fish oil (a source of omega-3 fatty acids) or a placebo for up to 7.4 years.
The conclusion: Those who took a fish oil supplement increased their risk of developing A-fib (an arrhythmia / irregular heartbeat) by about 37 percent.
The researchers said it is largely unknown why omega-3 fatty acids can increase the risk of A-fib. And they correctly stated that omega-3 fatty acids “have previously been shown to stabilize the heart membrane, resulting in a protective effect against arrhythmias, including ventricular arrhythmias.”
Our Opinion: There were different dosages and types of fish oil in these studies, and people with high triglycerides were not all the same in terms of demographics or health – although the review took this into account. There are data from randomized controlled data showing that omega-3 fatty acids reduce age-related cognitive decline and the risk of heart attacks in those with high triglycerides. So we believe what we have here is a statistical deviation (numbers don’t always tell the truth), and we need more research to figure out if the A-fib risk is enough to keep people with elevated triglycerides or heart -Circulatory disorders lead to omega-3 supplements.
What We Know: Getting omega-3s from food (your body needs them but can’t make them itself) is important to protecting all of your organs from inflammation and chronic disease. We recommend three servings of 3 to 6 ounces of salmon, sea trout, herring, anchovy, or sardines per week. And talk to your doctor about taking – or continuing to take – the dietary supplement.
Q: What weight loss supplements do you recommend? I need help! – Lanine G., Lincoln, Nebraska
A: Losing excess weight is difficult and you are not the only one looking for a shortcut. About 15 percent of Americans (over 100 million) trying to lose weight have used a weight loss supplement. But do they help you lose pounds and keep them off? A recent comprehensive review looked at 121 randomized, placebo-controlled studies of the effectiveness of over-the-counter diet supplements for weight loss and found them to be a waste of money.
The research presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity, examined the data of nearly 10,000 adults who took herbal supplements made from green tea; Garcinia Cambogia and Mangosteen (tropical fruits); white kidney beans; Ephedra (a stimulant that increases metabolism); African Mango; Yerba Mate (herbal tea made from the leaves and branches of the Ilex paraguariensis plant); Veld grape (commonly used in traditional Indian medicine); Licorice root; and East Indian ball thistle (used in Ayurvedic medicine). Only white kidney beans showed a statistical but no clinical benefit in weight loss compared to placebo.
The weight loss supplements evaluated were chitosan (a shellfish fat blocker); Glucomannan (a soluble fiber found in the roots of elephant yam); Fructans (a carbohydrate made up of fructose chains) and conjugated linoleic acid (which claims to change body composition by breaking down fat). All but fructans result in a small increase in weight loss compared to placebo – but it wasn’t enough to improve your health.
What Helps: good support systems – consider joining a group like OA or WW; cognitive behavioral therapy; Working with a nutritionist and an exercise physiologist; take it slow – lose a pound a week; and remember that when it comes to improved health, it takes a lifelong commitment to achieve life-extending results. What to eat when can be your guide ..
Mehmet Oz, MD is the host of “The Dr. Oz Show ”and Mike Roizen, MD is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus of the Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2021 Michael Roizen, MD and Mehmet Oz, MD Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.