Are Omega- 3 Fatty Acids Really Beneficial To Your Heart?

In Education

Doctors are constantly receiving questions from patients on what supplement they should use. Unfortunately, their answers are almost always equivocal because there’s no standard supplement that works for everyone. This does not mean that some patients could not benefit from some supplements. It just means that there are not enough studies supporting a single type of supplement to give doctors the confidence to recommend it.

Unfortunately, the above remains true for omega- 3 fatty acids supplements. The studies around omega- 3 supplements have been inconclusive and contradictory, leaving doctors and patients confused.

Studies supporting Omega-3

Omega- 3s from fish have been recommended for the past 20 years by the American Heart Association to reduce cardiovascular incidences like strokes or heart attacks in people who already suffer from cardiovascular diseases. The two main omega- 3 fatty acids found in fish are docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) acids.

Doctors sometimes recommend an omega- 3 supplement called Vascepa to patients at high risk of cardiovascular events due to its clinically purified EPA. It also brought back satisfactory results in a trial.

The research involved over 8,000 subjects who all had elevated cardiovascular risk and had high blood triglyceride levels. Researchers assigned half the participants to receive 2gm Vascepa while the rest received a placebo. The results revealed that Vascepa was more effective than placebo and dramatically reduced blood triglyceride levels. More importantly, it reduced cardiovascular incidences like strokes and the need for a stenting procedure to unclog blocked cardiovascular vessels. 

Further studies on fish oil omega-3 showed that they lowered the risk of heart attack and even death from coronary heart illness. The FDA later approved Vascepa in December 2020 to reduce cardiovascular events in patients who had or were at high risk of CVD.

Contradicting results

However, a recent trial dubbed the STRENGTH trial cast doubt on the benefits of Omega- 3 fatty acids to the heart. The study involved 13,000 CVD patients divided into two like in the first trial and either received a placebo or a combination of DHA and EPA. Unfortunately, the test was ended early after it was clear that none of them were helping.

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