If you’re taking prescription supplements to improve your heart health, new research suggests there is a popular pill that can be crossed off your list.

Fish oil products containing the “good fats” of fish have long been believed to improve heart health. Despite previous FDA approval, scientists at the Cleveland Clinic say 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. It contains a higher amount of so-called omega-3 fatty acids, which are the active ingredient in fish oil, ”explained Dr. Steven Nissen, Academic Director of the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

In a randomized study of 13,000 patients called the STRENGTH study, some participants received high-dose omega-3 supplements on a daily basis. 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 any beneficial effects,” said Nissen.

In fact, the STRENGTH study showed a 69% increase in atrial fibrillation in the group taking the high-dose omega-3 fatty acid. Scientists say the results suggest these products should be subject to additional review.

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.

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