Taking omega-3 fish oil supplements daily can reduce the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular events, including death. However, it may not protect against stroke.
Share on PinterestAccording to a new meta-analysis of the latest clinical trial data, taking omega-3 supplements daily may protect against heart attacks.
These were the results of an updated meta-analysis that pooled data from 13 studies with more than 125,000 participants.
Previously pooled analysis has produced mixed results on whether daily omega-3 fish oil supplements can lower heart risk.
However, the new study included data from three recently completed large studies that increased the number of participants by 64%.
The inclusion of the new data “had a significant impact on the evidence available,” note the authors in a recent Journal of the American Heart Association article on the study.
“This meta-analysis,” says first study author Yang Hu, Ph.D., of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, “provides the most current evidence of the effects of omega-3 supplementation on that Risk of multiple [cardiovascular disease] Results. “
An 8% reduction in the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular events may seem modest to individuals.
However, Hu and colleagues point out that since these events affect millions of people worldwide each year, even modest risk reduction can mean hundreds of thousands fewer heart attacks and premature deaths.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the two main types of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), the other is omega-6.
Fatty acids play an important role in the body. They are essential components of the fat molecules that make up cell walls. They also help generate energy and form molecules called eicosanoids, which perform signaling functions in many body processes, including the cardiovascular system.
In research, scientists focus on three types of omega-3s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
The body cannot make ALA and needs to get what it needs from food sources such as soybeans, flaxseed, and canola oil.
Although the body can make DHA and EPA from ALA in the liver, the amounts are small and must therefore also be obtained from food.
Fish and fish oils are rich in DHA and EPA. The fish do not produce these two omega-3 fatty acids, but get them by eating phytoplankton, which has ingested the microalgae that produce DHA and EPA.
Dietary supplements can contain a number of omega-3 fatty acids, including ALA, DHA, and EPA. Fish oil is the main source of DHA and EPA, although there are vegetarian products that get these from algae oil.
It is important to check the labels on supplements as their formulations of omega-3 fatty acids can vary widely.
In their study background, the researchers review how the evidence stood before their most recent analysis.
Whether omega-3 supplements reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease “is the subject of intense debate,” they note.
While observational studies have consistently linked higher fish consumption to reduced risk of heart disease, these benefits have not been seen in randomized clinical trials.
In these clinical trials, marine or fish omega-3 supplementation was tested – mainly as a moderate dose of EPA and DHA compared to placebo – and “largely zero results” were obtained.
The new study differs in that adding data from three new large-scale clinical trials increases the sample size in all 13 data sets by more than half.
The new analysis pooled data on a total of 127,477 participants with an average age of 64 years at baseline and 60% men. The mean body mass index (BMI) was 28 and the mean duration of supplementation was 5 years.
Although the omega-3 supplementation dose ranged from 376 to 4,000 milligrams per day (mg / d), most studies used doses of 850 mg / d or higher. The “relative share of EPA and [DHA] varies between different studies, ”note the authors.
The analysis found that those who took omega-3 fish oil supplements daily were at lower risk of most cardiovascular disease than those who took a placebo. However, there was no benefit for stroke.
Conditions omega-3 supplements appeared to protect against include heart attack, death from coronary artery disease, and death from cardiovascular disease. The risk of heart attack and death from coronary artery disease decreased by 8%.
The researchers found that higher doses of omega-3 fish oil supplements were linked to greater risk reduction.
These results could suggest that taking omega-3 fish oil supplements above 840 mg / d, which has been tested in most randomized clinical trials, could lead to an even more significant reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.
“We found significant protective effects of daily omega-3 supplementation against most [cardiovascular disease] Outcome risks, and the associations appeared to be dose dependent. “
Yang Hu, Ph.D.
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