In a new study, researchers found people who received omega-3 fish oil supplements in clinical studies had lower risks of heart disease compared with those who were given placebo.
They found an association between daily omega-3 supplementation and reduced risk of heart attack and death from coronary heart disease but did not see the benefit for stroke.
In addition, higher doses of omega-3 fish oil supplements appeared to provide even greater risk reduction.
The research was conducted by a team from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
While observational studies have shown an association between fish consumption and lower heart disease risk, results from clinical studies have been inconsistent.
Two reviews published last year did not find clear evidence for benefit.
In this new analysis, the researchers included three recently completed large-scale studies, which increased the sample size by 64%.
The total population included more than 120,000 adults in 13 randomized trials worldwide. The analysis included the VITAL trial, the largest randomized trial of omega-3s to date.
The findings showed that people who took daily omega-3 fish oil supplements, compared with those who took a placebo, lowered their risk for most heart disease outcomes except stroke, including an 8% reduced risk for heart attack and coronary heart disease (CHD) death.
The link was very strong at higher doses of omega-3 fish oil supplementation.
This finding may suggest that marine omega-3 supplementation dosage above the 840 mg/day may provide greater reductions in heart disease risk.
Given that several million people experience these heart attacks worldwide each year, even small reductions in risk can translate into hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and deaths avoided.
The team says although public health recommendations should focus on increasing fish consumption, having an overall heart-healthy diet, being physically active, and having other healthy lifestyle practices, this study suggests that omega-3 supplementation may have a role in some patients.
The lead author of the study is Yang Hu, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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