Fish oil supplements have long been touted as a great way to promote heart health. But according to new research, they might not be as beneficial as we originally thought — at least, not as a preventative measure.
A new study published in the journal Circulation found that fish oil doesn't necessarily protect against heart disease, but it is actually helpful to those who have already been diagnosed with heart failure.
For the study, researchers at the American Heart Association examined 13 randomized clinical trials that looked at the role fish oil plays in preventing and treating serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. The researchers found that for those who had never had heart disease, fish oil wasn't all that beneficial.
"People in the general population who are taking omega-3 fish oil supplements are taking them in the absence of scientific data that shows any benefit of the supplements in preventing heart attacks, stroke, heart failure or death for people who do not have a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease," David Siscovick, MD, MPH, chair of the writing committee of the study, said in a press release. "We cannot make a recommendation to use omega-3 fish oil supplements for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease at this time."
However, Dr. Siscovick was optimistic about what fish oil can do for those who have had heart failure. The new study found that those who have already had a heart attack or had been diagnosed with heart failure, a daily dose of 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements could reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by 10%.
"Physicians should use this advisory as a guide to make decisions on whether omega-3 fish oil supplements might be appropriate for some patients," Siscovick said. "The advisory concludes that supplementation with omega-3 fish oil may benefit patients with specific, clinical, cardiovascular disease indications, including patients with a recent prior heart attack and heart failure."
But for those who haven't experienced heart failure and want to take preventative measures, staying physically active and eating a healthy diet can go a long way. Besides, heart disease can strike in young women, too — and the symptoms may not always be obvious.