Widely Used Supplement Associated with Increased Heart Attack & Stroke Risk, According to UK Research

Recent research from the UK indicates that fish oil, often used for its perceived health benefits, might actually elevate the risk of heart-related issues. Fish oil, rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, is typically believed to improve cognitive, cardiac, and digestive health.

However, long-term studies have revealed that regular consumption of fish oil supplements may increase the likelihood of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke. Conversely, for those with existing heart conditions, consistent fish oil intake could decelerate disease progression.

According to the study’s authors, “Frequent consumption of fish oil supplements may be linked to a higher chance of atrial fibrillation and stroke in the broader population,” as reported in BMJ Medicine last Tuesday. The research examined data from 415,737 individuals (55% of whom were women) aged 40-69, sourced from the UK Biobank, which contains comprehensive information on the dietary patterns, lifestyle habits, and health statuses of numerous UK residents.

Between 2006 and 2010, the study collected essential demographic data from participants, including their regular consumption of oily and non-oily fish, as well as fish oil supplements, as reported by Mirror US. The research aimed to understand how these supplements might affect the progression from healthy hearts to atrial fibrillation and potentially lead to serious heart complications or death.

Participants were categorized and their health outcomes monitored until March 2021 or their death, through analysis of medical records. Nearly one-third (130,365; 31.5%) of participants reported regular use of fish oil supplements. This group was primarily composed of older, white individuals, with a higher proportion of women.

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The study also noted that those who consumed more oily fish and alcohol were generally non-smokers and less likely to live in impoverished areas. The results indicated that regular fish oil supplement use had varying impacts on heart health, the progression of heart disease, and mortality rates.

In individuals without pre-existing heart conditions, regular use of fish oil supplements was associated with a 13% higher risk of atrial fibrillation and a 5% higher risk of stroke, according to the research team’s press release. Conversely, for those with existing cardiovascular disease, consistent fish oil use was linked to a 15% lower risk of progressing from atrial fibrillation to a heart attack and a 9% lower risk of death following heart failure.

Further analysis showed that factors such as age, gender, smoking status, consumption of non-oily fish, high blood pressure, and the use of statins and blood pressure medications also influenced the risk of heart disease, alongside fish oil intake. The study also found that routine fish oil supplement use was associated with a 6% higher risk of major cardiovascular events in women and non-smokers, while men experienced a 7% reduction in mortality rates.

The researchers noted that due to the observational nature of their study, they could not definitively establish causality. They also highlighted the absence of information on the dosage or type of fish oil supplements used by participants.

The researchers recognized the limitations of their study but emphasized that “Regular consumption of fish oil supplements could have different effects on the progression of cardiovascular disease. More research is needed to identify the specific mechanisms that affect the onset and outcomes of cardiovascular events with regular fish oil supplement use.”

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