Omega-3 fatty acids don’t prevent heart problems

Most heart patients who take low-dose omega-3 fatty acid supplements don’t appear to gain any additional protection against further heart problems.

Omega-3 fatty acid, whether in the form of a pill or not, have risen in popularity recently, Health News reported.

Many believe omega-3’s to be a cure-all supplement that can help improve brain health, prevent wrinkles, minimize cancer risks, and lower heart disease risks.

A new study suggests that the fatty acids may not be as powerful as some believe. Omega-3 fatty acids are added to foods like margarine, peanut butter, and cheese, and are found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, and tuna.

To examine the effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplements on the rate of heart problems, researchers followed 4,837 Dutch heart attack patients between the ages of 60 and 80 years for 40 months.

All had experienced a heart attack at some point in the decade and were taking blood pressure medications, anti-clotting drugs and statins.

At the start of the study, the participants were asked to consume one of four different types of margarines: one supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids; one supplemented with the plant-derived ALA; one supplemented with both omega-3 fatty acids and ALA; and one with no supplements.

At the end of the study, it was found that 14 percent of the heart attack patients had experienced another major cardiovascular event, with some cases ending in death.

Neither low doses of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are found in fish oil, nor of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), derived from nuts and several vegetable oils, provided any benefit to the vast majority of heart patients.

One exception appeared to be among women ingesting ALA; researchers found a 27 percent reduction in the risk for further cardiac complications, although that reduction did not quite reach statistical significance.

The researchers noted that the participants in the trial were getting good clinical care and receiving statins, blood pressure drugs, and other medications with demonstrated heart benefits.

Thus they were at relatively low risk for death or another heart attack, and beneficial effects of a small amount of omega-3 fats might not show up.