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No health benefit found from fish oil

MUNICH — Looks like a fish oil pill a day won’t keep the doctor away.

Scientists who reviewed data from about 68,000 patients gathered in 20 trials over the past 24 years found that men and women taking fish oil supplements didn’t lower their risk for a bevy of ills, including heart attacks, strokes, and death.

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Diverging recommendations about the benefits of fish-oil supplements, which contain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, can ‘‘cause confusion in everyday clinical practice about whether to use these agents for cardiovascular protection,’’ Moses Elisaf and his colleagues from the University of Ioannina in Greece wrote in the study.

The scientists concluded that the use of fish-oil pills is unnecessary to ward off heart disease, a finding that contradicts other studies that said the supplements were beneficial.

The paper, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association yesterday, belongs to a form of research known as a meta-analysis, which evaluates data from previous investigations without doing new clinical work.

The patients involved were largely of European descent and took an average of 1.5 grams of omega-3 supplements a day for a median of two years.

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week. It advises patients with chronic heart disease to consume 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids a day, preferably through their diets.

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