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Will Taking Fish Oil Protect You from Heart Disease?

New data suggests that taking fish oil can protect people from heart attacks, heart failure, stroke and premature death without boosting prostate cancer.
Omega 3 fish oil capsules

Does eating fish or taking fish oil protect people with heart disease? That has been a slippery question over the past several years. A year ago, the VITAL study results suggested that people fare no better when they are taking fish oil than on placebo. Just last month, however, an analysis of multiple studies concluded that omega-3 fats (aka fish oil) can reduce the risk of heart disease.

A New Study on People Taking Fish Oil:

At the recent (Nov. 17, 2019) annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Philadelphia, scientists presented new data. Research from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute measured blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids among nearly 900 people undergoing angiography. Nearly 40 percent of these people were found to have severe coronary artery disease. Approximately 10 percent had blockage in three arteries.

The investigators then followed up on whether people had heart attacks, strokes or heart failure afterwards. They also noted whether people died during followup. Those who had the highest levels of omega-3 metabolites were less likely to have bad outcomes than those with very low levels. In summary, people taking fish oil did better regardless of how blocked their coronary arteries were.

Does Taking Fish Oil Promote Prostate Cancer?

The same research team conducted a separate study on 87 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. They measured omega-3 levels in these individuals. Investigators then compared those to the levels in a control group of 149 men without prostate cancer. A previous study had suggested that high levels of omega-3 fats might be linked to prostate cancer risk (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Aug. 7, 2013). Fortunately, this study found no connection between taking fish oil and developing prostate cancer. 

One of the researchers, Viet T. Le, PA, remarked:

“If I’m recommending omega-3 for my patients to save their hearts, I want to make sure I’m not putting them at risk for prostate cancer.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Is fish oil a blood thinner? I’ve just been diagnosed with AFib and take a blood thinner and flecainide. Peoples Pharmacy says a study done in 1989 states flecainide and similar drugs cause heart attacks. Why is this drug still used for AFib, and how can I access the study?

Is there information on how much fish oil and type of fish oil is most effective from this study?

An FDA panel on November 14 backed the wider use of icosapent ethyl (Vascepa—Amarin), a prescription-strength fish oil drug. Icosapent ethyl is currently approved for patients with excessively high levels of triglycerides.
I think the regular supplement of fish oil does not apply to the reduction of heart disease

I take flaxseed oil capsules instead of fish oil. Any difference?

I find it interesting that fish oil is back on the list mysteriously coinciding with the new “prescription” form available, (of course anything but the prescription one is suspect according to the commercial), a happy coincidence? Oh no… I smell money here.

Most of us are inundated with supplements claiming they’re good for you. I am sure some are, but it seems we’re allways one pill awawy fron inmortality. I take 20 supplements pills and various oils like black seed oil and oregano oil. I commend the People’s Pharmacy for their imformative articles. We are all after the same thing: good quality of everyday life.

I would like to understand what the difference was between these 2 studies. Did they evaluate different things, or use different types of patients? How can the results be different?

I also believe that Fish Oil has anticonvulsant properties. I had a patient (I am a psychologist – retired) who acquired a significant seizure disorder as the result of a head injury. He was having a seizure a day, at minimum. The head injury was caused by an assault – had molested two 7 year old girls, and their uncle hit him with a baseball bat. I asked him whether he liked sardines, and he stated that he did. I contact the Epilepsy Center at Bowman-Gray Hospital to inquire about the anticonvulsant properties of the sardines (admittedly not a standard dose and treatment). They encouraged my therapeutic adventure. I convinced him to eat five cans of sardines per day. The seizures stopped. There was a secondary benefit – children stayed away from him because of his sardine breath.

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