Daily Fish Oil Supplements May Increase Stroke and Heart Issues Risk, Study Finds

Daily Fish Oil Supplements May Increase Stroke and Heart Issues Risk, Study Finds

Fish oil may help with certain heart conditions, but should only be taken after discussing with a doctor, experts say. Getty Images/File

Many adults, especially those over 60, take daily fish oil supplements to maintain heart health due to their high omega-3 fatty acid content. However, a new study suggests that regular fish oil use may increase the risk of first-time stroke and atrial fibrillation in people with good cardiovascular health.

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular heartbeat often described as a flutter or pounding in the chest. Cardiologist Dr. Andrew Freeman says over-the-counter fish oil is seldom recommended and not included in medical society guidelines, yet many people use it.

The study analyzed data from over 415,000 people aged 40 to 69 in the UK Biobank. Nearly one-third reported regular fish oil supplement use. For individuals without heart issues, regular fish oil use was linked to a 13% higher risk of atrial fibrillation and a 5% increased risk of stroke.

Over-the-counter fish oil may lack purity and consistency, and could contain contaminants like mercury. Prescription fish oil, such as Vascepa and Lovaza, is used to manage high triglycerides in people with cardiovascular disease risk. However, even these versions may pose AFib and stroke risks.

For those without heart disease, the study found a 15% lower risk of progressing from atrial fibrillation to heart attack and a 9% lower risk of progressing from heart failure to death with regular fish oil use.

Alzheimer’s preventive neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson recommends testing omega-3 fatty acid levels and getting omega-3s from food sources like sardines, wild-caught salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, and albacore tuna. Plant-based options include algae, seaweed, chia seeds, edamame, flaxseed, hempseeds, and walnuts.

If supplements are needed, prescription omega-3 fatty acids are superior due to their purity and quality. For over-the-counter options, Isaacson advises buying from reputable companies and storing fish oil in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.


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