New Misleading and Inappropriate Meta-Analysis May Be Harmful to the Public Health and Does Not Indicate A Lack of Protection For Fish Oil Omega-3 Fats Against Heart Disease

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The findings of a new meta-analysis are misleading and should not be misinterpreted or taken out of context, advises Richard Passwater, Ph.D., co-author of “The Missing Wellness Factors: EPA and DHA.”

The findings of a new meta-analysis are misleading and should not be misinterpreted or taken out of context, advises Richard Passwater, Ph.D., Research Director of the Selenium Nutritional Research Center in Berlin, MD and co-author of “The Missing Wellness Factors: EPA and DHA” (Basic Health Publications, Inc., Laguna Beach, CA.) ( (1) Forty years of solid research document the protective nutrient effect of fish oils and other omega-3 fat-containing foods in reducing the risk of heart disease and other illnesses. Populations who consume life-long diets high in EPA and DHA Omega-3 fats have a lower incidence of heart disease than populations consuming typical Western diets, which are relatively low in fish and omega-3 fats.

“It is important that people are not misled by the new meta-analysis of previous fish oil studies published in the September 12 Journal of the American Medical Association, Passwater emphasizes. ( (2). Passwater states, “Although the new “review” shows a significant reduction in heart disease deaths and heart attacks, the amount is seriously understated because the meta-analysis is seriously flawed. The harm is that this flawed study may lead to people discontinuing their fish oil supplementation program which would be harmful to the public health.”

Passwater points out, “Meta-analyses that include short-term studies of low-dose fish oil supplementation given concurrently with powerful pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures only serve to mask the effect of the nutrients EPA and DHA and dilute the findings of more appropriate long-term studies of high dose fish oil supplementation which more closely reflect life-long nutrition. Meta-analyses are valid only when compiling data from comparably designed studies. Valid meta-analyses are not merely a matter of compiling numbers from previous studies and printing them out as if they were a “review” or new study. The inclusion criteria in the new meta-analysis resulted in an irrelevant collection of studies. Validity results by including only appropriate and comparable studies. In the recent meta-analysis published in the September 12 JAMA, confounding factors were introduced by the failure to assess and control for EPA and DHA levels and to measure and control for the Omega-3 Index ( in both placebo and test arms. Today many, if not most, cardiologists recommend that their patients eat several fish servings each week, regardless of whether they are also receiving fish oil supplements or a placebo. This new meta-analysis study does not negate the total body of science due to its several design limitations. ”

The new JAMA meta-analysis involved patients with dysglycemia who were prescribed statins, antithrombotics, antihypertensive and various other medications. Passwater notes, “studies of patients having prolonged biochemical disorders exacerbated by an inadequacy of EPA and DHA merely shows that a short drug-like treatment is insufficient to undo the damage established over decades and does not negate the fact that a lifelong pattern of adequate intake of EPA and DHA in a healthy population reduces the risk of disease.”

According to Passwater, “the data that should be considered in conducting a meta-analysis of the effect of fish oil and related long-chain Omega-3 foods in diseased persons should be from studies lasting more than 2 years and involving dosages of EPA and DHA of more than 1,000 milligrams and the Omega-3 Index of the placebo groups should be controlled for.”

Passwater and Professor Jørn Dyerberg, MD, DMSc., University of Copenhagen, have distilled the immense body of science regarding fish, fish oils and related omega-3 foods involving approximately 20,000 studies developed over more than 40 years into their new book, “The Missing Wellness Factors – EPA and DHA.” Dyerberg is the world’s groundbreaking researcher in fish oils and the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.

Passwater and Dyerberg discuss 56 studies in their chapter on cardiovascular disease in their book, as well as hundreds more studies in their chapters on stroke, memory, cognition, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, aging, arthritis, diabetes and cancer.

Dyerberg and Passwater convincingly make the case that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are essential for optimal health and well-being. (

The Selenium Nutritional Research Center, a private research laboratory, was established in 2001 to study selenium-containing nutrients, antioxidant micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. (

1.    The Missing Wellness Factors – EPA and DHA. Dyerberg, J. and Passwater, R. ISBN 978-1-59120-300-1 Basic Health Publications, Inc. Laguna Beach, CA. (2012).
2.    Rizos, EC; Ntzani, EE; Bika, EB; et al. Association Between Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Risk of Major Cardiovascular Disease Events: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2012;308(10):1024-1033. doi:10.1001/2012.jama.11374.

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