Fish oil supplements may be harmful, study finds. Expert asks, ‘Is it time to quit them?’

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As an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, daily intake of fish oil is a popular way to ward off the risk of heart disease.

About this 20% of adults are over 60 years old These products are often used in the United States for the purpose of supporting heart health.

However, a new study finds that regular use of fish oil supplements may increase, not reduce, the risk of first-time stroke and atrial fibrillation in people with good heart health.

irregular heartbeatAlso called AFib or AF, is a type of arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat that people often describe as a fluttering or pounding in their chest.

“I can see the title of this study as ‘Fish oil supplements: Is it time to dump them or not?'” the cardiologist said. Dr. Andrew Freemandirector of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver.

“I say this because over-the-counter fish oil is rarely recommended, it’s not in any guidelines from professional medical societies, and yet that’s what most people take,” Freeman said. , who were not involved in the study.

The study analyzed data from more than 415,000 people aged 40 to 69 participating in the UK Biobank, a longitudinal study of the health of people in the United Kingdom. About one-third of those people, who were followed for an average of 12 years, said they regularly used fish oil supplements.

For people without cardiovascular problems, regular use of fish oil supplements increases the risk of developing atrial fibrillation by 13% and the risk of having a stroke by 5%, according to the study published Tuesday in the journal Medicine. BMJ Medicine,

Freeman said over-the-counter fish oils lack purity and consistency, as well as contain potential contaminants like fish and heavy metals like mercury.

“Also, the studies for over-the-counter fish oil in the last 10 years have not been very positive,” he adds. “Fish oil was found to either have no benefit or in some cases could cause harm, such as with stroke and AFib. So this is nothing new.”

In fact, the new study found that people with existing heart disease at the start of the study had a 15% lower risk of having a heart attack from atrial fibrillation and a 9% lower risk of heart failure progressing to death. Used fish oil.

Instead, prescription versions of fish oil such as Vascepa and Lovaza are used to combat risk factors such as high triglycerides, a type of blood fat, in people at risk for heart disease, Freeman said.

“But even at prescription strength, highly purified versions of fish oil, the risk of AFib and sometimes stroke still exists, and doctors are cautious about that,” Freeman said.

“Overall, I would say the days of people going to the store and buying buckets of fish oil pills to keep themselves healthy should be over, but fish oil may still have a role in people who are already sick.”

Sasirin Pamai/iStockphoto/Getty Images/File

Experts say fish oil may help some heart conditions, but it should only be taken after discussing it with a doctor.

When it comes to fish oil, “the devil is in the details,” said Alzheimer’s preventive neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of research at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Boca Raton, Florida. He was not involved in the study.

“First, we recommend testing for omega-3 fatty acid levels — there are finger-prick tests you can buy online that are accurate — and then you should continue testing. If you don’t need fish oil you don’t want to take it,” he said.

Isaacson recommends trying to get your omega-3 fatty acids from food sources and says sardines and wild-caught salmon are the best sources, as they’re high in these healthy unsaturated fats and low in mercury. Farm-raised salmon isn’t the best choice because of impurities in the water in which it’s raised, she said.

Lake trout, mackerel, herring and albacore tuna are also good sources, he said. However, due to the levels of mercury in larger fish like tuna, he suggests limiting albacore tuna intake to twice a week.

Algae and seaweed are also good non-fish sources of omega 3. Chia seeds, edamame (soy beans), flaxseed, hemp seeds and walnuts are other plant-based options that are high in omega-3. But the fatty acids are in a different form than those found in fish. studies They have found that plant-based omega-3s may be harder to metabolize in people who have high levels of omega-6s, another type of unsaturated fat found primarily in vegetable oils.

Experts say prescription omega-3 fatty acids are superior to over-the-counter options because of their purity and quality. But prescribed supplements can be expensive. For those who decide they want to purchase over-the-counter omega-3s, Isaacson offers these tips to his patients.

First, the freshness of the fish oil is important, he said, adding, “Buying it online or from a retail superstore like Amazon or Costco is not the best idea.”

“We recommend purchasing it only from a few reputable companies and their specific website,” Isaacson said. “The difference in quality between fish oil stored in a heated warehouse close to its expiration date and recently produced fish oil, shipped directly from the company and kept in a home refrigerator is night and day. ”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not monitor the supplement industry to make sure that each vitamin or mineral actually contains what it says on the label, nor does the federal agency test to see if the ingredients are contaminated with bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides, plastic residues and other impurities.

However, there are some companies that have stepped into that role by testing various supplements and even some pharmaceuticals, so check their labels on supplements before purchasing. non profit organization US PharmacopoeiaBut the , or USP, sets the most widely accepted standards for supplements, experts say. consumerlab.com And NSF International Also do third-party testing.

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