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article imageEssential Science: Fish-oil can assist with reducing heart risk

By Tim Sandle     Mar 9, 2020 in Science
People are generally told to cut down on the amount of fat in their diets. However, there are some types of fats regarded as essential, such as Omega-3 fatty acids. New research considers how Omega-3 can benefit the heart.
Many people take fish oil, but is the supplement of benefit? New research finds that regularly consuming fish pol cam help to reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular events occurring, such as heart attack and stroke.
Several studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil could be able to impart a protective effect in relation heart disease, as well as some other effects designed to improve overall health. However, other studies have found no support for claims that fish-oil supplements can prevent heart attacks or strokes or influence any vascular disease outcomes.
Portrait of a fish.
Portrait of a fish.
honzik7 / morgueFile
However, definitive data, either way, has been hard to come by, at least until now.
READ MORE: Omega fatty acids contribute to brain health
Omega−3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids (atty acids that contain more than one double bond in their backbone), acting as important constituents of animal lipid metabolism. Omega-3 is most abundant in the oils of cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, cod and mackerel, including eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid.
New research
The new research comes from scientists based in China and the UK, as Medical Express reports. The research takes the form of a comprehensive analysis of medical information collected from the UK Biobank.
The UK Biobank is an institution based in Manchester, which is examining the contributions of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure (factors such as nutrition, lifestyle, medications and so on) in relation to the development of disease.
The research involved assessing data relating to 427,678 men and women living in the UK. The sample set were aged between 40 and 69 years old during the time of the analysis. At the time of the assessment, each person was declared to have no underlying cardiovascular disease or cancer. People entered the study population between 2006 and 2010.
Through the course of the study, the participants completed questionnaires. The questions posed include information pertaining to their use of dietary supplements, including fish oil. The proportion regularly taking fish-oil was 31 percent.
Over time, the information taken from the questionnaires was cross-compared with the study participants’ health records. The medical data included cardiovascular events and heart-issue relate deaths.
Fish oil supplements
Fish oil supplements
Via flickr user rjp (CC BY 2.0)
ALSO READ: Omega-3’s lower heart attack risk
Research outcomes
The final results of the study indicate that those who took fish oil supplements were found to have a 13 percent lower risk of all types of mortality. This was in addition to a 16 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease plus a 7 percent decreased risk of cardiovascular events in general. This was after adjusting for lifestyle factors, such as medical history.
The following video explains more about the research and the study outcomes:
Why might omega-3 work?
The reason why omega-3 may impart positive health benefits could be connected to more than one factor. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to regulate blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart rate. These are factors that help to protect an individual from developing heart disease or being subject to cardiovascular events.
Study limitations
The new research is an observational study and the findings may not necessarily equal causation. There could, for example, be other unaccounted for factors aiding those who experienced better cardiovascular health.
Furthermore, the types of metadata missing from the study, as noted by Laboratory Roots, included fish oil dosages, duration of usage and any side effects. Hence, further study will be required.
In relation to this, Professor Alice Lichtenstein, commenting on the research for CNN says: “Fish oil users were less likely to be current smokers and more likely to engage in physical activity and eat oily fish, which may be a marker of other healthy dietary habits.”
Research paper
The research has been reported to the British Medical Journal. The research paper is titled “Associations of habitual fish oil supplementation with cardiovascular outcomes and all cause mortality: evidence from a large population based cohort study.”
Essential Science
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue.
File photo: A surgical team from Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, performs ear surgery.
Photo by John Asselin, U.S. Air Force
Last week we looked at how robotics was shaping surgical practice, driving a series of improvement measures. Here robots are starting to assist with surgical procedures, helping surgeons to make assessments and to perform procedures with greater accuracy.
The week before the topic was about coronavirus, focusing on a study that estimated that the spread of Covid-19, in terms of person-to-person transmission, is greater than previous estimates from health authorities. This infers that stricter preventative measures are required.
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