SALT LAKE CITY – Fish oil pills are one of the most popular supplements, especially because they support better brain and heart health. But could some nutritional supplements be worse for your heart than you thought? According to a new study, some omega-3 supplements actually do more harm than good.
Scientists at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute in Salt Lake City report that high levels of one of the fatty acids commonly found in products are linked to a higher risk of heart problems. While another ingredient improved heart health, its effects were “blunted” when found in the combination, according to the study.
The researchers behind the results now say doctors shouldn’t recommend omega-3 supplements to their patients. Instead, they say that omega-3 rich foods like oily fish are a much healthier option. Using data from nearly 1,000 patients collected over a 10-year period, the study examines the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
“The advice to consume omega-3s for the benefit of the heart is ubiquitous, but previous studies have shown that science doesn’t really back it up for every single omega-3,” says Viet Le, a cardiology researcher at the institute. in a statement. “Our results show that not all omega-3s are created equal and that EPA and DHA together, as often found in dietary supplements, can negate the benefits that patients and their doctors hope for.”
The researchers used the INSPIRE registry, a database launched by Intermountain Healthcare in 1993 that contains more than 35,000 blood samples from nearly 25,000 patients. They identified 987 patients who underwent their first documented coronary angiographic study at Intermountain Healthcare between 1994 and 2012. The circulating levels of EPA and DHA in her blood were measured from these blood samples.
The researchers then followed these patients for 10 years looking for serious heart problems including heart attack, stroke, heart failure that required hospitalization or death. They found that patients with the highest EPA levels had a lower risk of serious heart problems.
However, they found that higher levels of DHA decreased the benefits of EPA. In particular, they found that patients with higher levels of DHA than EPA were at greater risk for heart problems.
“Based on these and other findings, we can still advise our patients to consume foods rich in omega-3s, but we shouldn’t recommend them in tablet form as dietary supplements or even as combined prescription EPA and DHA products,” says Le. “Our data support the results of the latest REDUCE-IT (2018) study that EPA-only prescription products reduce heart disease.”
The study will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Scientific Session in 2021.
SWNS writer William Janes contributed to this report.