Regular use of fish oil dietary supplements has been linked to a lower risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as heart attacks and strokes.

The research was published in the BMJ medical journal and included approximately a half-million individuals from the United Kingdom between 40 and 69 years old and enrolled in the UK Biobank study.1

At the start of the study, 113,438 men and women in the data bank noted regular use of fish oil supplements. Using hospital and death records, the researchers examined participants over a 9-year period and found that fish oil supplements were associated with a 13% lower risk of death, a 16% lower risk of dying from CVD, and a 7% lower risk of CVD events, such as a stroke or a heart attack.1

The observational study could not indicate whether or not the fish oil supplements or other factors lowered the risk of stroke. However, the authors note that their analysis showed that benefits were independent of factors such as age, sex, lifestyle habits, diet, medication, and another supplement use.1

“Fish oil users were less likely to be current smokers and more likely to engage in physical activity and eat oily fish. The authors attempted to control for these factors and cautiously concluded that fish oil was associated with lower rates of all cause and CVD mortality and had modest benefit in terms of CVD events,” said Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Gershoff, to CNN.2

The UK Stroke Association notes that rather than focusing on fish oil, it is important to eat fresh foods that are lower in salt and sugar, such as fruits and vegetables, and foods that are rich in fiber, such as brown varieties of bread and pasta.3

The study authors noted that further research is needed to examine the extent to which the dose of fish oil supplements influences the ability to achieve a clinically meaningful effect.1

Reference
  1. Li Zhi-Hao, Zhong Wen-Fang, Liu Simin, et al. Associations of habitual fish oil supplementation with cardiovascular outcomes and all cause mortality: evidence from a large population based cohort study BMJ 2020; 368. Published March 4, 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m456.  Accessed Marhc 9, 2020.
  2. Hunt, Katie. Fish oil supplements linked to lower risk of heart disease and death, study finds. CNN. Published March 4, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/health/fish-oil-heart-wellness/index.html. Accessed March 9, 2020.
  3. Eat a healthy diet. Stroke Association. https://www.stroke.org.uk/what-is-stroke/what-can-i-do-to-reduce-my-risk/eat-healthy-diet. Accessed March 9, 2020.