An online release of an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)found that DHA didn't slow the decline in mental ability in Alzheimer's patients (study used DHA--one of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil). while this is disheartening for that particular use, there are still some clear benefits:
1) Well-formulated fish and certainly the prescription form work to decrease triglycerides. Remember, triglycerides add to the risk of clogging of the arteries and are part of the burden of fats that your body has to deal with.
2) Over time, the effects on triglycerides probably means that these supplements and the prescription form will decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attacks...certainly a great benefit. The same effect on triglycerides may have a role in stroke prevention, but more data is needed.
3) Please remember that supplements and the prescription form of fish oil only continue to confer benefits IF YOU KEEP ON TAKING it. Spotty adherence (taking the pill "sometimes) changes the benefits. I think the best colleague any doctor can have is a more fully informed patient. Please tlk to your doctor if you are taking non-prescription fish oil tablets so he or she can think about the benefits you are getting and can check your triglyceride response to the fish oil!
4) One thing to think about in the JAMA study. While it is well-designed, the study DOES NOT mean that fish oil or DHA fails to help prevent or slow the start of Alzheimer's. This still needs to be studied.
As far as the heart is concerned, remember that triglycerides are only part of the picture. Your body uses a process called Reverse Cholesterol Transport (RCT) to take cholesterol to the liver for removal/use in making beneficial compounds. Probably the most interesting target in this process is apolipoprotein A1. This is actually the biggest protein part of good cholesterol (HDL). I'm expecting some news on this at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago and I will be tweeting as it unfolds!
As always...make certain you get the latest data before making any prescription, supplement, nutriceutical or complimentary care decision. Visit www.nccam.nih.gov for some balanced and objective information. This is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine!