New research has found that regularly taking fish oil supplements could lower a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, such as heart attack and stroke, and their risk of death.
Carried out by researchers in China and the US, the new study looked at data taken from the large-scale UK Biobank study, which includes genomic data on more than half a million UK residents.
The team had access to data on 427,678 men and women aged 40 to 69 years old, who were all CVD and cancer-free when they enrolled in the research.
After asking the participants to complete questionnaires on their use of supplements, including fish oil, the researchers found that 31 percent of participants were regular fish oil supplements at the start of the study.
They were then followed for at least eight years.
The findings, published in The BMJ Thursday, showed that taking fish oil supplements appeared to lower the risk of death from all causes by 13%, and lowered the risk of death from CVD by 16%, compared to those who took no fish oil supplements.
In addition, the supplements were also linked with a 7% lower risk of experiencing a CVD event.
The link between taking fish oil and CVD events appeared to be stronger for those with high blood pressure.
The findings also held true even after the researchers had taken into account risk factors for CVD such as age, sex, lifestyle habits, diet, medication and other supplement use.
Although it is still unclear exactly why fish oil could reduce the risk of CVD, the researchers note that previous studies have suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil appear to have a positive effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart rate, which could help prevent CVD events and reduce mortality.
The researchers note that as an observational study, they cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship between taking fish oil supplements and risk of death.
The team also did not look at what doses of fish oil are needed to see a beneficial effect, which they recommend should now be investigated in future studies.
However, they still conclude that regularly taking fish oil “is associated with a lower risk of all-cause and CVD mortality and a marginal benefit against CVD events among the general population.”