Heart attack patients who took high doses of fish oil supplements for six months showed improved heart function and less scarring, researchers report.
In the study, 360 heart attack survivors were followed for six months. Half of them were give 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acid supplements daily for six months, while the other half were given placebo pills.
Using MRIs of the heart, the researchers found there was a 6% improvement in both heart function and scarring in undamaged parts of the organ among patients who took 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily.
“What we need to study going forward is whether higher doses of omega-3 can reduce mortality rates. Can we do better than produce 6% heart improvement and 6% less scarring?” said senior author Dr. Raymond Kwong. He is director of cardiac magnetic resonance imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Previous studies where lower doses of omega-3 fatty acids were given after heart attacks had yielded “mixed results.”
Kwong said he was prompted to conduct the study after improved MRI technology made it possible to take a closer look at heart function and scarring of undamaged parts of the muscle.
Omega-3 fatty acids may permit the hart to contract more easily and reduce swelling in undamaged regions, Kwong noted.
Fish oil has been popular for decades among people looking to lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation, slow the progression of artery-clogging plaque, decrease clotting tendencies and lower the change of irregular heartbeats.
The study’s suggestion that high doses of omega-3 can help improve recovery after a heart attack is a provocative finding, Kwong said, although the research was not designed to prove that high doses of the supplement could actually lower the risk of death after heart attack.
“Our study was not about mortality,” Kwong explained. “It was about looking at fish oil and the heart using improved MRI technology. This opens opportunities for more studies.”
Funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the study was published Aug. 2 in the journal Circulation.
Please reread the paragraph about fish oil being popular for decades. If those effects aren’t reason enough to take fish oil, maybe this new study will convince you.
Typical maintenance doses of fish oil are 2 grams per day, half of the level that was used in this study. I often use levels of 4 grams per day in treating acute inflammation. On occasion, I will even use 6 or 8 grams per day if QA testing indicates the need for increased doses. Very large or obese patient often need greater doses.
I’m not convinced that omega-3 fatty acids permit the heart to contract more easily. However, they are very effective at reducing inflammation, including swelling and that maybe part of the benefit.
The real benefit comes from the formation of prostaglandin 3 (PG3) from these omega-3 fatty acids. Not only are they anti-inflammatory, they promote healing and healthy cell reproduction. We know that the use of NSAIDS (aspirin, Aleve, Advil) inhibits the formation of PG3 creating GI bleeds, liver failure, heart muscle disease, and death.
The Bottom Line:
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in the diet. Your body cannot manufacture these complex fats from any other sources. If you are a vegetarian, flax seed, hemp seed and chia seed oils are good sources of omega-3. Although vegetable sources contain no EPA or DHA, the human body can make these compounds from omega-3. Fish oil has abundant EPA and DHA for those who do consume animal products. Regardless of how much food you eat that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, I recommend daily supplementation of 2 grams.
Source: August 1, 2016 National Institutes of Health