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Fish Oil Supplements Linked To Greater First-time Heart Attack Risk In Study: ‘Not Universally Good Or Bad’

Taking fish oil supplements could raise the risk of heart attack and stroke, a new study suggests.

Among healthy people, regular use of fish oil was found to make them more susceptible to developing heart disease and stroke for the first time, the study found.

Among those who had existing heart disease, however, fish oil consumption was shown to slow the progression of cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of mortality.

Researchers analyzed nearly 12 years of data for more than 415,000 participants from the UK Biobank study; the participants ranged in age from 40 to 69.

“Regular use of fish oil supplements might be a risk factor for atrial fibrillation and stroke among the general population, but could be beneficial for progression of cardiovascular disease from atrial fibrillation to major adverse cardiovascular events, and from atrial fibrillation to death,” the researchers wrote in the study, which was published in The BMJ (British Medical Journal).

“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.”

Study highlights ‘uncertainty,’ cardiologist says

Dr. Jim Liu, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who was not involved in the study, pointed out that there has been conflicting data about whether or not fish oil or omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“This study appears to echo the same sentiment that there is still some uncertainty about their relation to heart health,” he told.

“Similar to previous studies, I think this study indicates that fish oil is not necessarily universally good or bad for all.”

Whether or not fish oil is beneficial or harmful depends on an individual’s specific underlying health conditions, he said — such as a history of heart attack or atrial fibrillation, and on other factors such as dosing and different formulations of the substance.

“Previous studies have shown that certain formulations of fish oil can help reduce cardiovascular events in people with elevated triglycerides and previous cardiovascular events,” Liu noted.

“Overall, this is yet another study that reminds us that there is still a lot that needs to be investigated when it comes to fish oil and heart disease.”

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