Does fish oil reduce my risk of heart disease?
Historically, ecologic studies found low rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) deaths among Greenland Eskimos consuming large amounts of seafood. Subsequent animal studies, observational studies and clinical trials examined the health effects of seafood consumption. These studies identified the long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acid as the likely active contributors to lowering heart disease.
Fish oil consumption may also positively affect other clinical outcomes in:
- Cognitive decline and dementia
- Depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders
- Other inflammatory disorders
Additionally, DHA also appears to be essential for early brain development during gestation and infancy.
Fish oil influences several cardiovascular risk factors and can lower serum triglyceride concentrations by 25 to 30 percent. However, little triglyceride lowering is seen with dietary doses or low-dose (<1 g/day) supplementation, whereas higher doses (3 to 4 g/day) can appreciably lower triglyceride levels.
Mixed Reviews on the Benefits of Fish Oil Related to Heart Disease
Consumption of oily fish has generally been associated with lower rates of CHD and CHD mortality. However, a meta-analysis of 10 randomized trials including 78,000 individuals found no effect of fish oil supplements on rates of CHD, CHD mortality or major vascular events. Still other studies have shown possible benefits and trends towards taking fish oil.
To say the least, the findings on the association between fish oil supplements and cardiovascular outcomes have been mixed. Fortunately the risk and harm of taking fish oil supplements appears to be low.
Given the potentially-beneficial effects on CHD death and sudden cardiac death, and low risk profile, it may be reasonable to take fish oil as a supplement but the jury is still out and don’t count on a clear answer anytime in the near future.
If you have questions about CHD or would like to refer a patient to Bryan Heart, call 402-483-3333.