Fish oil questioned as a treatment for heart disease, from the Harvard Heart Letter

Fish oil has garnered a reputation as a heart-healthy supplement. It may — stress the "may" — help prevent heart disease. But the results of four recent randomized, controlled trials (the gold-standard of medical research) showed that fish oil didn't work any better than a sugar pull at preventing recurring heart problems among heart attack survivors or people with atrial fibrillation, reports the March issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

These findings contradict findings from the 1990s that suggested fish oil could protect damaged hearts. But those trials were done before the widespread use of heart-protecting medications such as statins, ACE inhibitors, aspirin, and beta blockers. In their absence, fish oil by itself could have made a difference. In the four most recent trials, participants took fish oil on top of state-of-the-art medical therapy. Use of heart-protecting medications could have drowned out any small benefit from fish oil.

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