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Well-known fish oil scared scientists: Researchers revealed the truth about popular Omega-3 supplements

Date: July 23, 2024 Time: 02:02:33

Omega-3 Supplementation May Cause Dangerous Heart Rhythm Problems

Photo: Shutterstock.


“Nothing scares the world more than the well-known fish oil.” Do you remember this vital phrase from the cartoon about octopuses? Who would have thought that almost 50 years later (the cartoon premiered in 1976), a substance hated by Soviet children would become a very popular dietary supplement for adults? Today these are beautiful boxes of Omega-3 capsules that can be found in any pharmacy. Let’s explain: omega-3 is a group of so-called polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are part of fish oil. But modern technologies make it possible to increase the concentration of the valuable ingredient and at the same time clean it from toxic impurities found in natural fish products, the manufacturers explain. Omega-3 supplements are recommended to improve skin condition, muscle growth, support immunity and brain function, and reduce “bad” cholesterol. But the main thing is that they are actively promoted to protect against cardiovascular accidents, heart attacks and strokes. Therefore, many pay for not the cheapest capsules (the average cost is 600 to 1000 rubles) and swallow them in the hope of improving their health and rejuvenation.

However, an important scientific study has recently been published showing that it appears that the current hit to pharmacy sales is not so harmless. And the world really has time to be scared. Taking Omega-3 supplements is not only not beneficial for healthy people, but can also harm them, report the authors of a new scientific work. Regular use of these medications increases the risk of dangerous heart rhythm problems (atrial fibrillation, also known as atrial fibrillation) and even strokes. How valid are such conclusions? Has science really radically changed its attitude toward fish oil? Or can it still be useful to someone? How do omega-3s really affect the heart, blood vessels and our body as a whole? Komsomolskaya Pravda spoke about this with authoritative scientists and doctors of Russia.


– Omega-3 acids have long attracted the attention of researchers. The fact is that Greenlandic Eskimos, who eat a lot of fish, have a surprisingly low rate of heart disease, says the director of the Institute of Biology of Aging at Nizhny Novgorod State University. NI Lobachevsky, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, doctor of biological sciences, presenter of the Telegram channel “The Centenary Path” Alexey Moskalev. – But everything turned out to be not so simple! Later studies in mice did not confirm that Omega-3 supplements prolong life. And the secret of the indigenous people of Greenland, apparently, is not only in the fish. But also in unique genes that have been formed over centuries of natural selection.

A new large-scale study based on data from more than 400,000 Britons has shown mixed effects from using Omega-3 supplements, notes Professor Moskalev:

– It turned out that in healthy people who took fish oil as prevention, the risk of atrial fibrillation even increased! But in patients who already had cardiac dysfunction, omega-3 drugs, on the contrary, reduced the likelihood of worsening of the disease and death.

Why is this happening?

“Scientists still don’t know for sure,” shrugs the expert. – There are suggestions that high doses and the specific composition of the additives may be to blame for the negative effect. Many of them contain Omega-3 in the form of ethyl esters, which are less digestible and can even increase “bad” cholesterol.

Additionally, supplements may contain the “wrong” ratio of the two main types of Omega-3 acids. These are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). “Too much DHA instead of EPA can be harmful. Because too high a level of the former neutralizes the beneficial effects of the latter on the heart. And the anticoagulant effect of omega-3, together with the oxidative stress produced in large doses, also poses a potential risk to the heart of healthy people,” warns Professor Moskalev. And he admits: overall, there are still more questions than answers.

Therefore, scientists recommend caution when taking these types of supplements to prevent cardiovascular problems. “Perhaps it is better to resort to fish than to fish oil capsules,” concludes our scientific expert. What do cardiologists think?


– The effects of Omega-3 have been investigated for decades. And the results are very contradictory,” says cardiologist professor, doctor of medical sciences and director of the Institute of Personalized Cardiology at Sechenov University, Philip Kopylov. – One explanation for such contradictions is the differences in the dosage of EPA and DHA (the main types of Omega-3 acids, see above. – Ed.) in different experiments. For example, there is a serious study that confirmed the positive effect of Omega-3 in reducing cardiovascular risks. But there is a nuance: exclusively eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) was used in very high doses. It was not a dietary supplement, but a medicine. In addition, people who were already sick, heart patients, took it. They had a reduced risk of complications: heart attacks, strokes and mortality from heart problems.

However, almost immediately the research revealed the second side of the coin, which seriously worried doctors, continues Professor Kopylov:

– Studies have shown that while taking Omega-3, there is an increase in heart rhythm disturbances and atrial fibrillation. This risk is slightly less than the potential benefit of reducing other cardiovascular threats. But he cannot be underestimated. Therefore, the challenge now facing scientists and doctors is how to achieve maximum reduction in adverse side effects while maintaining positive effects. This proved to be difficult. So far we see that only high doses worked well. And they also increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.

– Philip Yurievich, and if we talk about healthy people, what do you think about taking Omega-3 for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases?

– It is important to understand: today there are no clear markers that prove that this or that person who does not yet suffer from diseases will definitely benefit from taking Omega-3.

– What happens with the Omega-3 blood index test? It is offered in many medical laboratories at a price of 4 thousand rubles or more. It is logical: if your indicator is below normal, then it is time to rely on Omega-3.

– Again: there is still no convincing data that, given a particular index value, additional intake of Omega-3 works and produces a tangible positive effect. But you should not forget about the risk of atrial fibrillation.

Editor’s note: A new study has once again demonstrated this risk for healthy people. At the same time, to be fair, we observed: it was observational. That is, people took (or didn’t take) supplements in their daily lives, and researchers checked after the fact: what was wrong with their heart health. With this approach, some data distortions are possible, although scientific methodology allows us to reduce them to a minimum. “In any case, it is important to take into account the results obtained,” says Professor Kopylov. Additionally, many previous experiments, including comprehensive clinical studies, have found risks or lack of benefits of Omega-3 for healthy people. By the way, the discovery of an increased risk of stroke in recent scientific work may be related precisely to the increased frequency of atrial fibrillation; It itself can contribute to cardiovascular accidents, our expert pointed out.


To drink or not to drink?

There is only one category of patients who are currently recommended to take omega-3s within the framework of evidence-based medicine, said cardiologist Professor Philip Kopylov. These are people with hypertriglyceridemia, that is, an off-scale level of triglycerides in the blood (only a doctor can make the diagnosis!). “The REDUCE-IT study demonstrated the beneficial role of high doses of purified eicosapentaenoic acid in people with high triglyceride levels: attention! – in addition to taking statins (i.e. cholesterol-lowering drugs. – Ed.). Only in this group of people and only in this form of the drug that looks like the wing of an airplane,” says Alexey Utin, cardiologist, candidate of medical sciences and co-founder of the smart medical examination project SMARTCheckUp.

“There are still many doubts about the use of omega-3 to reduce the risk of diseases in general,” says Professor Kopylov. “I would advise you to reconsider the passion for dietary supplements with Omega towards healthier food options. And definitely don’t use Omega-3 supplements as a substitute for cardiovascular disease therapy,” says Dr. Utin. The American Heart Association (AHA) also does not recommend taking fish oil supplements to prevent heart disease. For heart health, a balanced diet that includes fish once or twice a week is sufficient, the AHA’s scientific guidelines state. Experts add that regular exercise, enough sleep and reducing stress are also important.


What about fish oil for children?

When it was given to children in the USSR, it was exclusively fortification, since fish oil contains vitamins D, E, A, Professor Kopylov explained to KP. These were not concentrated omega-3 acids in high doses, which could significantly affect the cardiovascular system. As for modern recommendations for the growing generation, evidence-based medicine calls for determining whether a particular child really has a deficiency of a particular vitamin. And if confirmed, prescribe the necessary medications according to medical indications.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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