Fish oil supplements may increase risk of stroke, cardiovascular problems: Study

Fish oil supplements may increase risk of stroke, heart problems: Study

Experts say that people should try to get omega-3 fatty acids from food sources.

While fish oil supplements are widely used for heart health due to their omega-3 content, a recent study suggests they may not be as beneficial as previously thought. In the U.S., about 1 in 5 adults over the age of 60 regularly take these supplements to protect their hearts. However, the study suggests that for people with good heart health, regular fish oil use may increase the risk of experiencing a stroke or atrial fibrillation for the first time.

Atrial fibrillation (afib or AF) is an irregular heartbeat that can feel like fluttering in the chest or a pounding beat. “I can see the headline for this study being 'Fish oil supplements: Is it time to ditch them?'” said cardiologist Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver. CNN,

“I say this because over-the-counter fish oil is very rarely recommended, it's not in any guidelines from professional medical societies, and yet that's what most people take,” said Freeman, who was not involved in the study.

A large study of more than 415,000 people in the UK found a possible link between taking fish oil supplements and an increased risk of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and stroke in people who already had no heart disease. There was no problem. The study followed participants for an average of 12 years. Researchers also noted that some over-the-counter fish oil supplements may not be pure or consistent and may contain contaminants such as mercury.

“Also, studies over the last 10 years have not been very positive for over-the-counter fish oil,” he said. “Fish oil either has no benefits or may cause harm in some cases, such as stroke and AFib. So this is nothing new.”

The study said that in people with heart disease at the beginning of the research, when they used fish oil regularly, the risk of heart attack from atrial fibrillation was reduced by 15% and death from heart failure. The risk of progression reduced by 9%.

Dr. Freeman said prescription versions of fish oil, such as Vascepa and Lovaza, are used to combat risk factors such as high triglycerides (a type of blood fat) in people at risk for heart disease.

“But even at prescription strength, highly purified versions of fish oil, the risk of AFib and sometimes stroke still exists, and doctors are cautious about that,” Freeman said.

“Overall, I would say that the days should be over when people would go to the store and buy a bucket of fish oil pills to stay healthy, but fish oil can still play a role for those who Already sick.”

Alzheimer's preventive neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, research director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Boca Raton, Florida, said that when it comes to fish oil, “the devil is in the details.”

He said, “First, we recommend checking omega-3 fatty acid levels – you can buy finger-prick tests online that are accurate – and then you should continue testing. If you don't need If so, you should not take fish oil.”

Experts say people should try to get their omega-3 fatty acids from food sources. Algae and seaweed are also good non-fish sources of omega-3. Chia seeds, edamame (soybeans), flaxseeds, hemp seeds and walnuts are other plant-based options that are high in omega-3s.

Experts say prescription omega-3 fatty acids are better than over-the-counter options.

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