Oil Pills Protect from Heart Disease, Says Consumer Reports
June 19, 2003 - Consumed either from
fish or fish-oil pills, omega-3 fatty acids appear to offer as much
protection against dying from coronary heart diseases as do
cholesterol-lowering drugs, according to a report in the July issue of
Consumer Reports Magazine that is also available free on the Web.
“Omega-3 Oil: Fish or Pills?”
highlights some of the scientific research findings, offers an
unbiased rundown of the benefits, and presents its first product tests
of 16 leading brands of fish–oil supplements, including two Consumer
Reports Best Buys.
The evidence of fish oil’s protective
powers is so strong that the American Heart Association now urges
everyone to eat at least two small 3-ounce servings of fish a week.
That’s particularly important after menopause in women and after age
45 or so in men, when coronary risk starts to rise.
This reports is a continuation of CR’s
research and testing program to bring consumers trusted information on
the safety, efficacy, content, and labeling of dietary supplements,
which are not regulated by the government.
CR recommends that most people with
normal heart risk should eat at least two small servings of fish per
week. Young children and pregnant women should avoid or limit their
intake of species that may be contaminated with pollutants; others
should vary their choices and sharply limit intake of the worst
CR helps shoppers identify safer fish choices and lists the
omega-3 content of 27 species while highlighting those that may
contain pollutants. Those who do not like fish can consume the
equivalent amount of omega-3s from fish-oil pills: at least 2 grams a
week if you don’t have the disease—provided their doctor gives the
It is not always easy to know whether
dietary supplements are safe and if their content is reliable. CR’s
test results were reassuring: All fish-oil pills tested contained
roughly as much EPA and DHA, the active ingredients in fish oil, as
their labels promised. None showed evidence of spoilage, and none
contained a significant amount of mercury, PCBs, or dioxin.
no significant differences in the quality or purity of these
supplements. Therefore, consumers can choose them based on price. Two
CR Best Buys are Kirkland Signature Natural Fish Oil, available only
at Costco or on the Internet, and Member’s Mark Omega 3 Fish Oil,
available at Sam’s Club.
The benefits of fish oil emerged when
medical researchers noticed that people who frequently eat fish
suffered fewer heart attacks and died of heart disease at a lower rate
than those who seldom ate fish.
Most significant, those studies
showed that eating fish offers powerful protection against one of the
most dreaded and unpredictable consequences of heart disease—massive
“sudden death” heart attacks that kill within minutes.
research suggested that high fish consumption may also reduce the risk
of stroke. Clinical trials have confirmed that a steady diet of fish
or fish oil supplements reduce the risk of a second heart attack in
people who have already had one. This report is available free at
The July 2003 issue of CR will be
available June 10 wherever magazines are sold. To subscribe, call