As a boy, I had to endure a teaspoon of cod liver oil each day. My mother said it would put hairs on my chest - not that I particularly wanted them at the age of 7. There was a widespread belief that it would protect against rickets and was a useful source of vitamins A and D. Years later, in the 80s and 90s, I began taking fish oil supplements, then omega-3 capsules. Again, there was a common belief that omega-3 protected against cardiovascular diseases. I took the supplement for years. Then one day I hesitated before ordering the capsules online. I was wondering if the capsules I was taking were any good or if I should pay more to get better quality omega-3 supplements. The more I researched, the more I became convinced that not only was I was wasting money on the omega-3 supplements I was taking, but that all omega-3 supplements were a waste of money.
Now a major review by the Cochrane collaboration of all the trials carried out internationally to test the effect of omega-3, involving more than 112,000 people, says there is no evidence that the supplements do any good. Despite looking at the information from many thousands of people over long periods, the researchers could find no evidence that omega-3 had any protective qualities. A pretty damning verdict on an industry worth £23bn. It was, I suppose, always highly unlikely that one part of your diet was ever going to prevent heart disease. Much better to save your money and buy lots of fresh vegetables each day. Another reason for not taking these supplements is that that take fish out of the sea for no good purpose.
I do though still strongly believe that oily fish such as mackerel is good for my health – and it's a lot more delicious than that cod liver oil I used to take as a child.