SALT CITY – Fish oil pills are one of the most popular supplements, especially because they support better brain and heart health. But could some supplements be worse for your heart than thought? According to a new study, some omega-3 supplements 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, 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 that you take omega-3s for the benefit of your heart is widespread, but previous studies have shown that science does not confirm this for every single omega-3 system,” says Viet Le, 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 are hoping for.”
The researchers used the INSPIRE registry, an Intermountain Healthcare database launched in 1993 with more than 35,000 blood samples from nearly 25,000 patients. They identified 987 patients who had their first documented coronary angiographic study at Intermountain Healthcare between 1994 and 2012. From these blood samples, the circulating EPA and DHA levels in their blood were measured.
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 DHA decreased the benefits of EPA. In particular, they found that patients with higher levels of DHA than EPA were at higher risk for heart problems.
“Based on these and other findings, we can still tell our patients to eat foods rich in omega-3s, but we shouldn’t recommend them in pill form as dietary supplements or even as combined prescription EPA and DHA products,” says Le. “Our data reinforce the results of the recent REDUCE-IT (2018) study that EPA prescription products reduce cardiac events.”
The study will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 2021 scientific session.
SWNS writer William Janes contributed to this report.