A new study of prescription fish oil products reverses years of conventional wisdom
CLEVELAND – fish oil products containing the “good fats” of fish have long been believed to improve heart health.
Despite earlier FDA approval, scientists at the Cleveland Clinic said new research has explored the benefits of prescription strength fish oil pills.
“This is a drug that is similar to the fish oil people buy over the counter, but much, much more effective,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, Academic Director of the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.
“It has higher levels of what are known as omega-3 fatty acids, which are the active component in fish oil.”
Many people take omega-3 fish oil supplements to promote heart health.
For many years, the American Heart Association has recommended eating two servings of fish a week, and in 2017 the association also recommended taking dietary supplements to slightly reduce the risk of death from, heart failure, or a recent heart attack.
However, they also stated that these supplements did not prevent heart disease.
In a randomized study of 13,078 patients called the STRENGTH study, some participants received high-dose omega-3 supplements daily.
Others were given a placebo made from corn oil, which is used in cooking.
The researchers found that the prescription omega-3 fatty acid did not reduce cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.
“It’s really kind of a wake-up call to see a study like this one where the most effective prescription-grade fish oil didn’t have beneficial effects,” said Dr. Nits.
The STRENGTH study showed a 67% increase in atrial fibrillation in the group that took the high-dose omega-3 fatty acid.
The study was canceled by the Supervisory Committee after a primary endpoint event occurred in 1,384 patients.
The primary endpoint events were cardiovascular death, non-fatal myocardial infarction, non-fatal stroke, coronary artery revascularization, and hospitalization for unstable angina.
Dr. Nissen said the STRENGTH study results had an impact on over-the-counter fish oil products as many people take large doses to avoid the cost of prescription fish oil.
The researchers concluded that the omega-3 supplements had no effect on preventing atrial fibrillation.
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