A report on a cross-sectional study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this month, unsexily titled “Health Claims and Doses of Fish Oil Supplements in the US,” found something many guys already intuited: fish oil supplements often have labels that suggest widespread health benefits across various organ systems, but lack trial data to back this up.
The report notes that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements—EPA and DHA specifically—varied per supplement variety, which increases “potential variability in safety and efficacy between supplements.”
Fish oil use is widespread, perhaps due more to marketing than science. In fact, one in five adults in the US over the age of 60 takes a fish oil supplement, “often for heart health,” as the report notes, “despite multiple randomized clinical trials showing no data for cardiovascular benefit for supplement-range doses.”
Supplements were a $163 billion industry last year, and we can expect that number to go up as our social media algorithms continue to serve as unregulated pill and powder recommendation engines, regardless of whether supplements do too much or not enough.
Sure enough, the authors suggest increased regulation of dietary supplement labeling might be required to prevent consumer misinformation—which we know is particularly pernicious in the health realm.
Somehow, on the same day of the JAMA study was published, its stakes were made clear in an unrelated press release from ResearchAndMarkets.com: the global fish oil market is expected to hit $3.62 billion by 2030. It was $2.29 billion last year.