Published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a new meta-analysis from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital shows that people who received omega-3 fish oil supplements in randomized clinical trials had lower risks of heart attack and other cardiovascular disease (CVD) events compared with those who were given placebo.

Although researchers found an association between daily omega-3 supplementation and reduced risk of most CVD outcomes, including heart attack, death from coronary heart disease, and death from CVD, they did not see benefit for stroke. They did, however, notice that higher doses of omega-3 fish oil supplements appeared to provide even greater risk reductions.

The Author’s Analysis

Previous clinical trials of omega-3’s and CVD risks have been inconsistent and unclear. Now, though, according to first author Yang Hu, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School: “This meta-analysis provides the most up-to-date evidence regarding the effects of omega-3 supplementation on risk of multiple CVD outcomes. We found significant protective effects of daily omega-3 supplementation against most CVD outcome risks and the associations appeared to be in a dose-response manner.”

Readers are given an important reminder from senior author JoAnn Manson, chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, who says, “Although public health recommendations should focus on increasing fish consumption, having an overall heart-healthy diet, being physically active, and having other healthy lifestyle practices, this study suggests that omega-3 supplementation may have a role in appropriate patients.” Manson is also the Director of the large-scale VITAL trial of omega-3s.

Other Harvard Chan School authors included Frank Hu.

The Implications of This Discovery

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have accomplished a major discovery here. As reported by Harvard T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health, “Given that several million people experience these CVD events worldwide each year, even small reductions in risk can translate into hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and CVD deaths avoided, according to the researchers.”

These are hundreds of thousands of families that can avoid the heartbreak of losing a loved one to heart attack or other cardiovascular defects.

Call to Action: For more information, we have provided contact information for Chris Sweeney at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Elaine St. Peter at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

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