Main content

Should I eat foods containing omega-3?

All sorts of foods are labelled with the words ‘contains Omega 3’, from fish fingers, to low fat spreads, to mayonnaise. But is there really evidence that they are good for our health? Dr Saleyha Ahsan finds out.

It’s been claimed that Omega 3 oils have all sorts of benefits, such as lowering our risk of dementia, improving our memory and even being good for our eyesight. There are also plenty of supplements on the market and articles in the media are frequently recommending that we should all be taking omega 3 pills.

Surprisingly, the scientific evidence for the benefits of omega 3 supplements is pretty thin. There simply haven’t been the big, well-conducted trials with results to back up the claims. However, there is one piece of research that appears to provide positive results.

Oily fish, which is rich in omega 3, has been shown to help keep your heart healthy. Trials involving thousands of people showed that eating one portion of oily fish a week reduced blood pressure and the build-up of fat in the arteries.

Crucially, though, these positive results haven’t been found in people who replace oily fish with omega 3 supplements. This could be because oily fish contains lots of other nutrients other than omega 3 and it’s the combination of these nutrients that’s thought to be responsible for the health benefits.

So, oily fish might be good for you, but as yet, there’s no evidence that you should listen to the marketing surrounding omega-3 oils.