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Daily News

Is fish oil good or bad for the heart?

The Lawton Constitution

Scientific support for fish oil supplements (omega-3 fatty acids, abbreviated n-3) has waxed and waned over the past 50 years. Now, the same researcher who said fish oil was worthless for the heart has changed her tune.

Dr. JoAnn Manson is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine (Jan. 3, 2019), she and her colleagues concluded that "Supplementation with n-3 fatty acids did not result in a lower incidence of major cardiovascular events or cancer than placebo."

Nine months later, Dr. Manson and her co-authors concluded: "Marine omega-3 supplementation lowers risk for myocardial infarction [heart attack], CHD [coronary heart disease] death, total CHD, CVD [cardiovascular disease] death, and total CVD ... Risk reductions appeared to be linearly related to marine omega-3 dose" (Journal of the American Heart Association, Sept. 30, 2019). In other words, the higher the dose of fish oil, the lower the risk of heart problems.

Many readers of this column have stuck by fish oil despite the ups and downs of the research. One shared this story:

"I have been taking 4 grams of premium fish oil capsules for 20 years. This began on the recommendation of a lipid specialist at a major teaching hospital in Houston.

"He prescribed prescription Lovaza (fish oil) for my high triglycerides and low HDL. I had suffered a heart attack five years earlier that was treated with balloon angioplasty.

"Since then, my triglycerides have been under 100, and my HDL and LDL are in perfect range. I had a stent placed in the same area as the angioplasty about 12 years after the heart attack. I no longer take any prescription meds for my heart, and the fish oil is OTC. No doctor has ever questioned why I am taking it or told me it was useless."

Another reader had a different experience: "I started taking omega-3 fatty acids about 10 years ago. I developed a heart problem and continued taking fish oil because the data that I read was encouraging. My cardiologist told me it was useless, so I stopped. Doctors are not always correct. Last week, after I read the results of the newest study, I bought my new supply. My instincts were correct after all."