Studies Provide Little Support for Guidelines on Dietary Fats and Supplements

Two new studies demonstrate the shaky underpinnings of guidelines that 
encourage the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

The first, a large meta-analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 
examined dietary fatty acid consumption, fatty acid biomarkers, and 
fatty acid supplements. Among the chief findings:

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids: There were trends for modest benefits 
associated with dietary intake or supplements, but these did not 
achieve statistical significance.

Saturated fatty acids: There was no discernible effect of total 
saturated fat as measured by either dietary intake or circulating 
biomarkers.

Monounsaturated fatty acids: No effect was found.

Trans dietary fats: A harmful effect was confirmed.

In the second study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, 4200 
patients with age-related macular degeneration were randomized to 
omega-3 fatty acids; lutein/zeaxanthin (carotenoids found in the eye); 
both; or placebo. After roughly 5 years, there was no significant 
reduction in cardiovascular outcomes in the treatment groups.

Commentators say it’s now clear that omega-3 supplements “with daily 
doses close to 1 g in patients with or without established CVD shows 
no clear, considerable benefit.” They conclude that for now, omega-3s 
should be prescribed only for patients with severe 
hypertriglyceridemia, “an extreme minority of the general population.”

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