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Omega-3 Supplements: Good for Some, Risky for Others, Here’s Why

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A recent study suggests that the continuous intake of Omega-3 supplements by healthy individuals could potentially increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

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A comprehensive study led by researchers from Saint Louis University in the United States, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital in the United Kingdom, Sun Yat-sen University in China, Aalborg University in Denmark, and Beijing Xiehe Medical University and published in BMJ Medicine examined the effects of long-term Omega-3 supplement use.

The research team tracked the health data of 415,737 participants aged between 40 and 69 over approximately 12 years, focusing on their usual diet, Omega-3 supplement intake, and medical histories. They found that healthy individuals without cardiovascular disease who consistently took Omega-3 supplements had a 13% higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation and a 5% higher risk of stroke compared to those who did not take the supplements.

Throughout the study period, 22,636 participants without previous cardiovascular issues experienced heart attacks, strokes, or heart failure, with 18,367 developing atrial fibrillation. Of these, 22,140 eventually died.

Conversely, for participants already suffering from cardiovascular disease or at high risk, Omega-3 supplements showed benefits. In this group, regular Omega-3 intake was associated with a 15% reduced risk of progressing from atrial fibrillation to myocardial infarction, a 9% lower risk of death from heart failure, and an 8% decrease in the risk of major cardiovascular events.

The research indicates that while Omega-3 supplements may pose risks for healthy individuals, they can significantly benefit those with compromised cardiovascular systems. The authors noted, “Regular intake of Omega-3 supplements does not have the same effects on healthy individuals, excluding those with underlying diseases,” and called for more research to better understand the mechanisms involved.

The researchers highlighted that most participants in the study were white, suggesting that the findings might not be generalizable across different racial groups. Further studies are needed to explore these effects across diverse populations.

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