Fish Oil and Heart Health

ROME, ITALY. There is ample evidence concerning the benefits of fish oil supplements in patients with coronary artery disease, one of the most common types of heart disease. It is believed that fish oil supplements helps prevent ventricular arrhythmias and reduces triglyceride concentration, blood pressure, platelet aggregation and inflammation. A group of physicians at the University of Rome La Sapienza reports that post-procedure fish oil supplementation in patients having undergone coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is highly beneficial. Their study included 2100 patients who underwent CABG between May 2004 and December 2009. The average age of the bypass patients was 67 years, 19% were female, 94% had hypertension, 36% had diabetes, and 38% had a left ventricular ejection fraction of less than 40%.

Do Fish Oil Supplements Help Bypass Patients?

Following CABG, 930 of the study participants were assigned to receive fish oil supplements at the discretion of their cardiologist. NOTE: Patients receiving fish oils were more likely to have a higher prevalence of diabetes and were significantly more likely to have a history of heart attack and/or prior percutaneous coronary intervention. The remaining 1170 patients did not receive fish oils but the majority of all patients in both groups received aspirin (88%), ACE inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker (75%), and/or beta-blocker (78%). The prescribed dose of fish oil provided 580 mg/day of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 1140 mg/day of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) both in the form of ethyl esters. After a median follow-up of 2.5 years, the Italian researchers concluded that fish oil supplementation was associated with the following benefits:

  • A 45% (relative) reduced risk of dying
  • A 48% (relative) lower incidence of repeat revascularization.

The lower mortality was particularly significant among bypass patients with poor left ventricular ejection fraction (64% reduced risk of dying), but only marginal among bypass patients with good ejection fraction (11% reduced risk of dying). The researchers conclude that taking fish oil supplements should be an integral part of standard medical therapy following CABG.
Benedetto, U, et al. N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids after coronary artery bypass grafting. Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Vol. 91, 2011, pp. 1169-75

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