Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women, but men usually develop it 10 to 15 years earlier than women. This means men are also more likely to die of it in the prime of their life.
However, taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement every day may reduce the risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular events, including death. This was the finding from a recent meta-analysis, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association that reviewed data from 13 trials involving more than 125,000 participants. The use of omega-3 fish oil supplements have been studied in research for years. It has been the intention of these studies to explore the possible benefits these supplements may have for heart health.
New study on omega-3 fish oil supplements and heart disease
This particular study provides the most up-to-date evidence involving the effects of omega-3 supplementation on cardiovascular disease outcomes. What the researchers found was that when compared with people who took a placebo, those who took daily omega-3 supplements had an 8% lower risk for heart attacks and death from coronary artery disease. However, the supplements did not lower the risk of stroke.
An 8% reduction may not seem very high but when taken into account of the millions of people worldwide who are affected each year by heart disease, even a modest risk reduction can result in hundreds of thousands of fewer people having heart attacks and dying prematurely.
Although the omega-3 supplementation dose in the studies ranged from 376 to 4,000 milligrams per day, most of the trials used doses of 850 mg/d or higher. However, the authors of the study indicated that higher doses may offer the most significant benefits.
What is the role and sources of omega-3 fats?
In the past few years it has become widely accepted that omega-3 fatty acids are critical to good health. These essential fatty acids have a host of important jobs within the body that are necessary for normal function of all tissues. But never assume that you are getting sufficient amounts in your diet or automatically think they are only found in fish. There are many facts about omega 3s that everyone needs to know in order to ensure they are obtaining adequate amounts for their best health possible.
From research, we know that there are three types of omega-3s – alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid. The body cannot make ALA and therefore has to obtain what it needs from the food sources such as soybean, flaxseed, and canola oils. Although the body can make DHA and EPA from ALA in the liver, the amounts are small and therefore, it must get them from the diet also.
The best and richest food sources of DHA and EPA fish oils are fatty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, and oysters. These food sources are still recommended to choose first for omega-3 fats for heart health. But if fish is not a favorite food, then a person may rely on using omega-3 fish oil supplements on a daily basis in place of fatty fish.
While these findings do show that supplements might be a viable alternative to food sources of omega-3 fats, for people who have difficulties obtaining enough from their daily diet, then an omega-3 fish oil supplement might be an option.
Before starting a regimen of using omega-3 fish oil supplements, always speak to your doctor first about whether these supplements are right for you.