By Simone Du Toit. Up to $4.19 billion could be saved if Australians with heart disease took fish oil, a Deloitte Access Economics analysis commissioned by the Complementary Healthcare Council has found.
Two previous large clinical trials identified fish oil’s role in the reduction of cardiovascular disease deaths as well as overall mortality within populations.The Access Economics analysis put a dollar amount to this finding in the Australian setting, which was measured in terms of reduced cost of disease burden, disability and death on the economy.
“Our bodies cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids efficiently, so we must get them through food - particularly fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines - or fish oil supplements,” Dr Robert Grenfell, Clinical Issues Director at the National Heart Foundation of Australia commented.
“Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for a healthy heart. We need them for numerous normal body functions, such as controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain,” Dr Grenfell said.
CHC Executive Director Dr Wendy Morrow said the report highlights that just a low dosage of fish oils every day can improve mortality rates associated with heart disease.
“This research is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the positive outcomes of research into preventive interventions using complementary medicines,” she said.
Despite the strong findings, fish oil supplements are not currently subsidised under the PBS and are subject to a GST levy. The study authors suggest it would be strategic for governments to review these arrangements.
A second study published in the American Academy of Neurology journal has found participants with low levels of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in their red blood cells (considered reflective of a diet low in dietary fatty acids) are associated with smaller brain volumes and a “vascular” pattern of cognitive impairment.
References available upon request