Fish oils protect against after-effects of heart attacks

Benefits of Fish Oil in Patients Who Have Suffered a Heart Attack

MORADABAD, INDIA. A group of Indian and Iranian medical researchers sought to examine whether there were benefits of fish oil supplementation in patients who had recently suffered a heart attack. They reported that fish oil supplementation initiated within 18 hours of a heart attack (myocardial infarction) markedly reduces subsequent mortality and after-effects. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial involved 360 patients with suspected myocardial infarction. The patients were randomized to receive either fish oil capsules (2 capsules three times daily providing a total of 1.08 g/day of eicosapentaenoic acid and 0.72 g/day of docosahexaenoic acid), mustard oil capsules (providing 2.9 g/day of alpha- linolenic acid) or placebo capsules within 18 hours of experiencing the first symptoms. Supplementation was continued for a full year.

The benefits of the fish oil supplementation became apparent within the first 10 days of supplementation. After 10 days 4 of the patients in the fish oil capsules group had suffered a fatal heart attack compared to 6 in the mustard oil group and 6 in the placebo group. There were 6 non-fatal heart attacks in both the placebo and mustard oil groups, but only 1 in the fish oil capsules group. At the end of the 1- year trial 22% of the patients in the placebo group had died from a cardiac event as compared to only 11.4% in the fish oil capsules group. The incidence of non-fatal heart attacks was significantly lower in the fish oil and mustard oil groups (13% and 15% respectively) as compared to the placebo group (25.4%). The fish oil and mustard oil groups also showed a significant reduction in angina attacks, arrhythmias, and left ventricular enlargement as compared to the placebo group. The researchers conclude that one of the benefits of fish oil capsules and mustard oil capsules may be providing rapid protection in patients who have suffered a heart attack. They urge larger studies to confirm this.

Note: The researchers make the observation that experimental studies have shown that the intake of 3-4 g/day of alpha-linolenic acid is equivalent to the intake of 0.3 g/day of eicosapentaenoic acid in its effect on the eicosapentaenoic acid content of plasma phospholipids.

Singh, Ram B., et al. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of fish oil and mustard oil in patients with suspected acute myocardial infarction: the Indian experiment of infarct survival. Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy, Vol. 11, 1997, pp. 485-91

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