Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Fish Oil Supplements May Increase Risk of Heart Issues and Stroke

Using fish oil supplements regularly may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a new study.

This contradicts the fact that fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, it’s estimated that 20 percent of U.S. adults above the age of 60 use these supplements regularly to boost heart health.

Results from the new study suggest that regular use of these products may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation, a type of heart arrhythmia that’s often described a ‘pounding’ or ‘fluttering’ feeling in the chest.

fish oil supplement study
The longitudinal study followed the health of over 415,000 people in the U.K.

According to Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist at National Jewish Health, over-the-counter fish oil supplements are rarely recommended by specialists and are not included in medical guidelines. Despite that, many people continue to take them.

Fish Oil Only Beneficial For Those with Pre-Existing Heart Disease

The study, which was published in BMJ Medicine on Tuesday, looked at data from more than 415,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69 in the United Kingdom. Out of those people, one-third said they took fish oil supplements on a regular basis.

over the counter fish oil

For individuals in good cardiovascular health, taking fish oil supplements regularly was associated with a 13 percent higher risk of developing heart arrhythmias. Their risk of having a stroke was also 5 percent higher than those who did not take fish oil supplements.

According to Dr. Freeman, over-the-counter fish oil supplements often suffer from lack of consistency and purity. They may also be contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury, that are often seen in fish.

He said that studies conducted over the past decade have not shown any positive results for over-the-counter fish oil supplements in regards to heart health and that they either provided no benefit or caused harm instead.

He noted that while prescription fish oil supplements tend to be more pure, they are also associated with a higher risk of atrial fibrillation and stroke and that it’s something doctors are aware of.

Getting Omega-3 Fatty Acids From Food

Dr. Richard Isaacson, the director of research at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, said individuals should only take fish oil supplements if they need them.

He recommends using food sources for omega-3 fatty acids instead, one example being wild-caught salmon and sardines as they tend to be low in mercury and high in healthy fats. He cautioned against farm-raised salmon as they tend to be raised in less-than-ideal water conditions.

mackarel He noted that herring, mackerel, albacore tuna, and lake trout are also good sources of omega-3s. Due to the fact that mercury tends to accumulate in larger fish such as tuna, however, he recommends limiting their consumption to one to twice a week.

Other non-fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids include seaweed, algae, edamame, hempseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds. These types of plant-based omega-3s, however, may be harder to metabolize, compared to those found in fish.

For those who must take over-the-counter fish oil supplements, he recommends buying them from a reputable company as their pureness or quality cannot be guaranteed if they are bought from a retail or online store such as Amazon.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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