CRN Discounts Conclusions of Omega-3 Meta-Analysis, Urges Physicians, Consumers to Consider Totality of Evidence

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 9, 2012In response to a meta-analysis titled “Efficacy of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements (Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid) in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease” published online today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, issued the following statement:

Statement by Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., senior director, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN: 
“Physicians and consumers should not be swayed by the results of this meta-analysis as it conflicts with the totality of scientific evidence which finds benefit for omega-3 EPA and DHA for heart health.  Further, this meta-analysis cherry-picked 14 randomized clinical trials (RCTs), most of which were small, short-term studies (less than one year of follow-up), leaving out other RCTs of longer length and greater relevance, all observational studies, and three1-3 well-respected systematic reviews designed to look specifically at CVD outcomes.

Even the guest commentary that accompanies the meta-analysis notes that omega-3s are among the most extensively studied nutrients and adds that there is a large body of evidence showing the potential benefits of fish oil in cardiovascular health. Further, the commentary authors note the fact that the authors of the meta-analysis left out two large studies that could have altered their conclusion.

While we agree with the guest commentary that people should eat a diet high in fatty fish, the reality is that people are simply not doing this and should have other options for obtaining omega-3s. The irony is that the guest commentators advise physicians that while waiting for more ‘…conclusive evidence to recommend fish oil supplements for primary or secondary prevention of CVD’ they are quick to suggest fatty fish, which has no more (and some may say less) conclusive evidence than fish oil supplements in this area.  Fish oil supplements are an affordable, convenient way to get omega-3 fatty acids, and CRN suggests that the evidence is strong enough for physicians to suggest the option of fish oil supplements, while still recommending the benefits of salmon, sardines and other fatty fish. 

Scientific research is a process which enables us to make new discoveries; however, one research team’s analysis of a subset of the available evidence does not discount previous study results, analysis, and recommendations made by authoritative scientific bodies such as the American Heart Association. Therefore this meta-analysis should be looked at as a piece of the evidence—and given its flaws, not necessarily a very good one—certainly not one on which physicians—or consumers—should change their mind with regard to fish oil supplements.”

Note to Editor: The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our 75+ manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as CRN’s Code of Ethics. Visit
1. n-3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not alpha-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcomes in primary- and secondary-prevention studies: a systematic review. Wang C,Harris WSChung MLichtenstein AHBalk EMKupelnick BJordan HSLau J.; Am J Clin Nutrition 2006;84:5-17

2. Omega-3 dietary supplements and the risk of cardiovascular events: a systematic review. Marik PEVaron J.; Clin Cardiol 2009;32(7):365-372)

3. A Systematic Review of the Evidence Supporting a Causal Link Between Dietary Factors and Coronary Heart Disease. Andrew Mente, PhD; Lawrence de Koning, MSc; Harry S. Shannon, PhD; Sonia S. Anand, MD, PhD, FRCPC;  Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(7):659-669)