A new science advisory published in Circulation by the American Heart Association (AHA) questions the efficiency of fish oil in preventing heart disease. They have analyzed a series of randomized clinical trials and found that omega-3 fish oil supplements should not be used to prevent heart disease.
Omega-3 fish oil – good or bad?
AHA did not rule out completely the use of fish oil by patients with heart conditions. They stated that these supplements could be good for people with prevalent coronary heart disease. They also recommended such supplements for those with prevalent heart failure. The supplements can help them reduce the mortality risk and possible hospitalizations.
However, AHA did not recommend the use of these supplements by diabetes mellitus or prediabetes patients. Fish oil supplements could not help them prevent the occurrence of coronary heart disease. Also, they do not recommend them for the prevention of incident stroke in patients with a recurrent atrial fibrillation or for those at a high cardiovascular risk.
The advisory, published on March 13th, evaluated strictly the use of fish oil supplements in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and death. David Siscovick, the chair of the writing committee that put up the scientific advisory, explains why they are so skeptical about fish oil.
“We cannot make a recommendation to use omega-3 fish oil supplements for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease at this time. 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.”
Testing old hypotheses
The advisory was developed on the basis of a study from 2002, in which the authors had tested two randomized control trials on the use of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid supplements. Back then, they had found that such supplements reduced fatal cardiac events in a significant way.
For this new study, the scientists looked at a variety of studies, out of which none was focused on the prevention of heart disease. They found that omega-3 fish oil supplements could be beneficial only for people who had recently suffered a MI or those with heart failure.
Thus, the scientists advise doctors to use this guide when deciding what patients can benefit from fish oil supplements and not recommend them if they are not sure they are going to be effective. The science advisory can be consulted here.
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