In a new study, researchers found that regular use of fish oil supplements may be linked to a lower risk of death and heart attack and stroke.
They analyze data from the UK Biobank study. The research was conducted by a team based in China and the US.
Fish oil is a popular dietary supplement in the UK and other developed countries.
Some evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may help prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce mortality, but conclusive evidence is still lacking.
To explore these potential associations further, the team drew on data from the UK Biobank—a large population-based study of more than half a million British men and women.
Their analysis included 427,678 men and women aged between 40 and 69 years old, without heart disease or cancer, who were enrolled in the study from 2006 to 2010 and completed a questionnaire on supplement use, including fish oil.
Almost a third (31%) of participants reported taking regular fish oil supplements at the start of the study.
The researchers found that fish oil supplements were associated with a 13% lower risk of all-cause mortality, a 16% lower risk of heart disease mortality, and a 7% lower risk of heart events.
The association between fish oil use and heart events appeared to be stronger among those with high blood pressure.
Results were also unchanged after further analyses, suggesting that the findings withstand scrutiny.
Several mechanisms could explain these results, say the researchers.
For example, omega-3 fatty acid supplements have shown beneficial effects on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart rate, all of which would exert a protective effect against the development of heart events.
The team concludes that habitual fish oil use is associated with a lower risk of all-cause and heart disease mortality and a marginal benefit against heart events among the general population.
The study is published in The BMJ.
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