Taking fish oil supplements may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke
Fish oil supplements, mainly omega 3, have become popular in recent years, and much is said about their benefits. But a new study, the results of which were published about a week ago in the medical journal BMJ Medicine, found that healthy people who take them, may suffer from negative effects.As part of the study, researchers from the USA, China, Great Britain and Denmark asked to check the relationship between fish oil supplements and cardiovascular diseases. They followed more than 415 thousand men and women aged 40-69 between the years 2006 and 2021, for an average of 12 years Since the beginning of the monitoring, almost a third, most of them adults and women, took fish oil supplements regularly.

According to the findings, people without a medical history of heart disease, who regularly took fish oil supplements, had a 13% higher risk of developing a heart rhythm disorder of the “atrial fibrillation” type, and a 5% higher risk of having a stroke, compared to participants who did not take the supplements . The odds of healthy patients having a heart attack, stroke or heart failure were 6% higher in women, and 6% higher in non-smokers.

However, for the study participants who already had heart disease, there was a slowing of the existing diseases – patients who took fish oil supplements regularly, who suffered from a heart rhythm disorder, had a 15% lower risk of the disease progressing and worsening from atrial fibrillation to a heart attack, and a lower risk of -9% for the worsening of heart failure to the death of the patient.

The conclusions – with a limited guarantee

It is important to note that the study is a prospective cohort study, that is – it is not a controlled experiment, where the participants are assigned doses, and are closely monitored; Rather, it was an observational study that followed the participants and within which the researchers were based, among other things, on medical questionnaires and face-to-face interviews. They point out that more studies are needed to determine the exact mechanisms for the development and prediction of cardiovascular disease events during regular use of fish oil supplements.

“When we come to test nutritional supplements, we test them in two ways – if they are helpful and if they are safe,” explains Michal Sukman, district nutritionist at Maccabi Health Services. According to her, until now the claim has been that fish oil supplements are not beneficial to the general population, yet they are also not harmful, but this study presents a different picture. “The study actually refines the Israeli Heart Association guidelines, which state clearly that there is no clinical reason to consume omega-3 in capsules, which contain a high dose of the substance, if there is no active heart disease, or an excess of triglycerides – a fat found in the blood circulation and may also cause cardiovascular diseases.” .

Omega 3 is better from a dietary source

However, Sukman clarifies that fish oil is important for our bodies, as it is unsaturated fatty acids that balance the cholesterol level in the body, prevent the formation of inflammation and also affect brain function. The recommendation is, therefore, to consume them through the diet we eat – make sure to eat two servings of fish rich in omega 3 per week. She emphasizes that the recommendation for eating fish is different for pregnant women and small children for fear of excess mercury, and for them it is recommended to eat two servings at most. “When we introduce omega-3 into our bodies through a balanced diet, we do not isolate the active molecule from the nutritional environment, and consumption is done in reasonable amounts, compared to consumption through capsules, where most users exceed the recommended amount.”

Prof. Avishai Ellis, a specialist in internal medicine at the Bilinson Medical Center of the General Group, says that “there is an unnecessarily extensive use of omega-3, which leads to side effects as found in this study, which have already been described previously.” According to him, there are no existing proofs regarding the effectiveness of the supplement beyond its accepted medical indications – heart disease and excess triglycerides. The professor clarifies that in the study the dosages taken by the participants were not examined, as well as the composition of the preparations, a subject that he claims requires further examination. “The problem with food supplements is that users have no way of knowing what the active substance is in the supplement and in what quantity. Many times the supplements are taken in an irresponsible way, and in a dosage that is not correct for the patient.”

In conclusion, the professor clarifies that “food supplements should be treated as a medical preparation for everything, and accordingly consult with the attending physician before each use. Taking any preparation, even if it is ‘natural’, may harm health without monitoring or ensuring a dose that is suitable for the patient and his medical condition It must be remembered that the dosage of the active substances in the preparations may also be uncontrolled and increase the chance of suffering from side effects.”

By Editor

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