Fish Oil Supplements Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Problems, Study Finds

 Fish Oil Supplements Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Problems, Study Finds


Recent research challenges the widely held belief that fish oil supplements are a benign boost for cardiovascular health. According to a new study published in BMJ Medicine, these supplements, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, could actually increase the risk of heart disease and stroke in the general population. However, the study also suggests that in individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, fish oil may slow the progression of the disease.

“Regular use of fish oil supplements might be a risk factor for atrial fibrillation and stroke among the general population,” the researchers noted in their findings. The study analyzed data from 415,737 participants, drawn from the UK Biobank—a comprehensive database capturing dietary, lifestyle, and health information. Participants surveyed from 2006 to 2010 provided baseline data, including their consumption of oily and non-oily fish and fish oil supplements.

Researchers tracked the participants until March 2021 or until their death, examining how fish oil consumption affected the progression from good heart health to serious cardiovascular outcomes like atrial fibrillation, heart attacks, and ultimately, death. Of the participants, 31.5 percent reported regular use of fish oil supplements, a group characterized by a higher proportion of older, white individuals, and women, the Mirror reports.

Findings revealed a nuanced impact of fish oil supplements on heart health. For participants without cardiovascular disease at the start of the study, regular fish oil supplementation was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation and a 5 percent increased risk of stroke. Conversely, for those already diagnosed with cardiovascular conditions, regular use was linked to a 15 percent reduced risk of advancing from atrial fibrillation to a heart attack and a 9 percent decreased risk of progressing from heart failure to death.

The study also took into account other risk factors such as age, gender, smoking status, non-oily fish intake, high blood pressure, and the use of statins and hypertension medications, which all contributed to cardiovascular risk.

The authors of the study cautioned that the observational nature of the research means that definitive conclusions about cause and effect cannot be made. They also highlighted the absence of information on the dosage or types of fish oil supplements taken by participants.

Despite these limitations, the findings prompt a reevaluation of the role of fish oil supplements in cardiovascular health. “Regular use of fish oil supplements might have different roles in the progression of cardiovascular disease,” the researchers concluded, calling for further studies to elucidate the mechanisms behind these effects.

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