Fish oil or Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplements Can Combat Heart Attacks, According to Harvard Researchers

Omega 3 Fatty Acid

Regular consumption of fish or fish oil supplements that contain omega 3 fatty acid can combat the risk of heart attacks, according to a couple of Harvard-led clinical trials. The omega 3 fatty acid have been long known to benefit healthy people as well as those with conditions that put them at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular disease.

Two large studies called ‘Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL)’ and ‘Reduction of Cardiovascular Events with Icosapent Ethyl Intervention Trial (REDUCE-IT)’ were conducted to gauge the benefits of vitamin and omega 3 fatty acid to the heart.

In the first study, it was found people who take fish oil supplement have lower risk of heart attacks, particularly in people who were black and did not eat fish regularly. The second trial, on the other hand, revealed that a purified form of omega-3 fatty acid is capable of reducing the risk of death by heart attack, heart disease, or stoke in people with high heart risk factors such as hardened arteries. Abundantly found in salmons, tuna, sardines, and sea fish, omega 3 fatty acids are considered to be highly beneficial to heart health, as seen in the experiments, Dr. JoAnn Manson said, who was lead researcher for the VITAL trial.

The researchers are not recommending everyone in the world to start taking fish oil supplements. To obtain the omega 3s, people can have more dietary fish and if people aren’t going to eat fish, they can gain the benefits from fish oil supplements, the researchers said, insisting that the people discuss with health care provider. Findings of both the studies were presented at the annual meeting of American Heart Association in Chicago on Saturday and featured in the recent issue of New England Journal of Medicine.

VITAL Study

This study included about 26,000 U.S. men and women aged 50 years or older who had no history of heart disease. These participants were divided in three randomized groups and assigned the daily intake of either 1 gram of fish oil supplements, 2000 IU of vitamin D, or a placebo. Over a five-year follow-up period, it was found that the fish oil supplements lowered the risk of heart attack by 28% but did not have any effect on the participants’ risk of stroke or cancer. On the other hand, people with low fish consumption not only had 40% reduced risk of heart attacks but also showed 19% reduction in all cardiovascular events. The fish oil supplements were of more benefits to black participants with 77% lowered risk of heart attack. The study researchers explained that black people are likely to have higher risks of heart attack as compared to other racial groups. Meanwhile, Vitamin D showed no heart health benefit but reduced the risk of death by cancer up to 25%.

REDUCE-IT Study

This study tested the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids’ pure and stable form, also known as icosapent ethyl or EPA, a medication prescribed for people with high cholesterol to lower the levels of triglyceride. More than 8,000 participants were included in the study who take statins to control cholesterol as well as had stroke or heart attack in the past. Additionally, about 70% of the participants had hardened arteries while others either had heart risk factors or diabetes.

Assigned to take the supplement or placebo, risk of cardiovascular events leading to death was reduced by 20% and heart attack risk by 30% in participants who took the supplements. Risk of stroke also dropped by 28% more than those taking placebo. According to the researchers, this study sets a new standard of care for people with increase triglycerides levels and at the greater risk of cardiovascular disease despite taking statin.

They believed that this may be the biggest development in prevention of cardiovascular events, following statins. No supplements must be taken without any medical advice, they added.

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Rahul Pandita

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