Around the world, fish oil is a popular dietary supplement. Now, researchers have found that regularly consuming it may be able to help stave off cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke, as well as all-cause death.
Although earlier research has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may be able to prevent heart disease and improve overall health, conclusive data proving this link has been lacking. Thus, to resolve this issue, a team of researchers based in both China and the UK made an analysis of data from the UK Biobank.
For their analysis, they examined data from 427,678 men and women living in the UK aged between 40 and 69 years old. Each without underlying cardiovascular disease or cancer, they were enrolled in the study between 2006 and 2010, during which time they completed questionnaires detailing their usage of supplements, including fish oil. The data from these questionnaires was then compared with their subsequent health records, including information on cardiovascular events and deaths. In total, 31% of the participants claimed to take fish oil supplements regularly at the beginning of the study.
In the end, the researchers found that those taking fish oil supplements tended to have a 13% lower risk of all-cause mortality alongside a 16% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 7% lower risk of cardiovascular events in general. These results remained even after adjusting for risk factors such as age, sex, lifestyle habits and diet.
According to the researchers, there may be several factors at play that explain these results. To begin, omega-3 fatty acids have previously been shown to regulate blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart rate, all of which work to protect against developing heart disease and undergoing cardiovascular events.
Despite the study’s large sample size however, as the research is observational in nature, the researchers nevertheless caution about using its findings too concretely. In particular, they highlight some limitations, including a lack of information on fish oil dosages, duration of usage and any side effects. Thus, although interesting findings, the researchers say that further studies are needed to more precisely understand which dosages of fish oil achieve clinically meaningful effects.