Warning that fish oil may raise risk of heart disease and stroke

It is credited with everything from easing joint pain to good heart and brain health.

A rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil is often recommended as a dietary preventive to ward off the development of cardiovascular disease.

But new research suggests taking the popular supplement could in fact increase the chances of heart disease and stroke in healthy adults, while reducing the risk in those with a history of disease.

The study — which involved more than 415,000 Britons — looked at the associations between fish oil supplements and new cases of atrial fibrillation, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure causing death.

They assessed the potential of these supplements on the risk of progressing from good heart health to the secondary stage of atrial fibrillation, third stage major cardiovascular events such as a heart attack and death.

Nearly a third — 130,365 — of the participants, aged 40-69, said they regularly used fish oil supplements, including a high number of older and White people, and women.

warning that fish oil may raise risk of heart disease and stroke

Fish oil is credited with everything from easing joint pain to good heart and brain health

warning that fish oil may raise risk of heart disease and stroke

The popular supplements could in fact increase the chances of heart disease and stroke in healthy adults

Alcohol intake and the ratio of oily to non-oily fish eaten were also higher, while the proportions of current smokers and those living in deprived areas were lower.

During a follow-up 12 years later, 18,367 had developed the abnormal heart rhythm atrial fibrillation, 22,636 had suffered a heart attack, stroke or heart failure, and 22,140 had died.

Of those who developed heart failure, 2,436 died, alongside 2,088 who suffered stroke, and 2,098 following a heart attack, according to findings published in BMJ Medicine.

Regula use of fish oil supplements had different roles in cardiovascular health, disease progression, and death, the findings indicated.

Those who regularly used them with no signs of disease had a 13 per cent higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation and a five per cent greater risk of stroke.

But among those who had cardiovascular disease at the start, regular use of fish oil supplements reduced the risk of progressing from atrial fibrillation to a heart attack by 15 per cent and from heart failure to death by nine per cent.

The risk of transitioning from good health to heart attack, stroke or heart failure was six per cent higher in women. It was also six per cent higher in non-smokers among fish oil takers.

Meanwhile, the protective effect of these supplements on the transition from good health to death was greater in men (7 per cent lower risk) and older participants (11 per cent lower risk).

Led by Sun Yat-Sen University, China, researchers admit limitations to the study including that dosage and formulation of fish oil was not recorded, which experts suggest could be key to the results.

Nevertheless, they conclude: ‘Regular use of fish oil supplements might have different roles in the progression of cardiovascular disease.

‘Further studies are needed to determine the precise mechanisms for the development and prognosis of cardiovascular disease events with regular use of fish oil supplements.’

It is not the first study to make such conclusions with a Cochrane review of research in 2018 comparing 79 trials finding it made ‘little or no difference to risk of cardiovascular events, coronary heart deaths, coronary heart disease events, stroke or heart irregularities’.

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