Research contradicts itself—a lot. We all know the flip-flopping tendencies all too well. That being said, the information you're about to read on fish oil may very well change in the next year or decade. Still, you should know that the newest research is debunking the belief that fish oil supplements can spur muscle growth. Read the full breakdown below and scroll on for two more reviews exposing fish oil's inadequacies.
Promote Muscle Growth
Sorry, gents: You can't get extra credit in the gym from popping fish oil supps, according to new research from Scotland's University for Sporting Excellence.
In the study, published in Physiological Reports, 20 regular gym goers received the equivalent of 5g of fish oil every day for eight weeks. The lifters put down a hearty breakfast before tackling a series of leg presses and leg extensions followed by a 30g protein powder shake. Muscle biopsies were taken before and after the trial to determine how much of the omega-3 fats (thought to be the most important component of the fish oil for muscle) were absorbed by the muscle cells and whether the capsules enhanced how quickly muscles grew.
"We have found that when it comes to building lean muscle mass and repairing damaged proteins, these capsules do not seem to make much of a difference for healthy men already undertaking resistance training," study author Kevin Tipton said in a press release. "...there was no significant difference in the rate at which muscle adds new protein after exercise between participants who took the control capsule of coconut oil and those who ingested the fish oil supplements."
While there were no significant differences to muscle growth in healthy, resistance trained men, the researchers do say that fish oil may benefit people who have less established muscle mass and strength, and as a result, different metabolic responses to exercise and supplements.
Boost your heart health
Turns out the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil aren't all they're cracked up to be. Of nearly two dozen studies on fish oil—published in leading medical journals from 2005 to 2012—which zeroed in on the pill’s ability to prevent cardiovascular events, only two found considerable benefits to heart health, the New York Times reports. The ability to lower the risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, or Type 2 diabetes just wasn't found. Research from Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania backs it up, claiming newer analyses of more than 50 randomized controlled trials and cohort studies haven't figured out whether fish oils are helpful to people with heart disease. Synthetic versions of fish oils have shown some anti-inflammatory promise for hearts and blood vessels in lab cell cultures and live animals, but that's all.
In 2014, the Oregon State Drug Review analyzed three large reviews to determine fish oil’s impact on cancer. One review failed to show any indication of cancer prevention, another concluded fish oil reduced mortality among prostate cancer patients by 63 percent (meanwhile another 2013 study found men who eat a lot of fish or take fish oil supplements have a significantly higher risk for high-grade prostate cancer), and a final review found no clear benefit in the reduction of cancer among patients with advanced cases. In short, it appears that fish oil supplements are really of no benefit when it comes to preventing cancer.