Study: More omega-3 fats didn't aid heart patients

August 29, 2010 By STEPHANIE NANO , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Eating more heart-healthy omega-3 fats provided no additional benefit in a study of heart attack survivors who were already getting good care, Dutch researchers report.

After nearly 3 1/2 years, there was no difference in deaths, heart attacks and other between those who ate margarine with added and those who didn't, the study found.

The results don't mean that getting more of the essential nutrient has no value. Several studies have offered evidence that the fats - mostly from fish oil - reduce heart disease.

But for heart patients who are carefully treated "adding a little bit of omega-3 fatty acid does not seem to make a difference," said Alice Lichtenstein, a Tufts University nutrition professor, who was not involved in the research.

Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help reduce the risk of abnormal heartbeats, slow the growth of plaque that can clog arteries and lower harmful fats called triglycerides.

In recent years, omega-3 has been added to some foods such as margarine and eggs, or labels highlight the omega-3 content of foods like tuna fish.

"Now they're popping up in the most unexpected places," including trail mix, said Lichtenstein.

Two kinds of omega-3s come from wild oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna. A third type comes from plants; sources include walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans and canola oil.

It's generally recommended that people eat one or two servings of fish a week, said the study's leader, Daan Kromhout of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

"The results of this trial do not change that," he said, noting that there were no harmful side effects. "It's still a good thing to eat fish once or twice a week."

The study's participants were taking the best medicines to prevent future heart trouble, and that could be why adding a low-dose of omega-3s offered no extra protection, the researchers said. The volunteers were also older and entered the study years after their heart attacks, in contrast to heart patients in earlier research who did benefit by taking fish oil pills.

The findings were presented Sunday at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Stockholm and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, Kromhout and his colleagues recruited 4,837 survivors in the Netherlands who were 60 to 80 years old. They were randomly assigned to eat one of four kinds of margarine - regular margarine or ones with added omega-3s derived from fish, plants or both.

Kromhout said they used margarine because it was easier than fish oil supplements to make all versions look and taste identical.

On average, the patients ate about 4 teaspoons (18.8 grams) of margarine a day, spread on bread at meals, Kromhout said. During the 3 1/2 years they were followed, 671 patients, or 14 percent, had a heart problem or died. There was no difference between the groups, no matter what kind of margarine they ate.

Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said it may have been a matter of too little, too late - the dose was small and the patients were enrolled many years after their initial heart attack - on average four years.

"If you wait too long, sometimes you miss that window to benefit them," Kopecky said.

He said he tells his heart patients to take 1,000 milligrams of daily.

"The benefit potentially is so great, that we tend to put patients on it quite often," he said.

Since the Dutch study was in heart attack survivors, Lichtenstein said it still isn't known whether omega-3s can protect against a first heart attack or help those patients who don't get such good care.

The study was funded by the Netherlands Heart Foundation and the U.S. Institutes of Health. Unilever, which makes an omega-3 enriched margarine, provided the margarines.

More information: New England Journal:
Heart Association:


Related Stories

Recommended for you

Low-fat or low-carb? It's a draw, study finds

February 20, 2018
New evidence from a study at the Stanford University School of Medicine might dismay those who have chosen sides in the low-fat versus low-carb diet debate.

Tobacco kills, no matter how it's smoked: study

February 20, 2018
(HealthDay)—Smokers who think cigars or pipes are somehow safer than cigarettes may want to think again, new research indicates.

Just a few minutes of light intensity exercise linked to lower death risk in older men

February 19, 2018
Clocking up just a few minutes at a time of any level of physical activity, including of light intensity, is linked to a lower risk of death in older men, suggests research published online in the British Journal of Sports ...

Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline

February 16, 2018
Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean, according to new research published ...

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are not associated with risk of heart attacks

February 16, 2018
New research from the University of Southampton has found no association between the use of calcium or vitamin D supplementation and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Study shows options to decrease risk of motor vehicle crashes for adolescent drivers

February 16, 2018
Adolescents who receive comprehensive and challenging on-road driving assessments prior to taking the license test might be protected from future motor vehicle crashes, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham study ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2010
This study marginalizes the importance of pigs genetically modified to increased content of omega-3 fats. These pigs are generally unhealthy, as they're more prone to genetic autoimmune diseases, so they're must be filled with antibiotics to survive.

not rated yet Aug 30, 2010
The Weston A. Price Foundation website (as does the website of Ray Peat as well) has some info about Omega-3 which seems to say pretty much the same thing as this study.
2 / 5 (2) Aug 30, 2010
This article like most dont allow scanning. If you dont read it in whole you could believe Omega 3s are of no help. This how Big Pharma makes us unhealthy now this kind of writting has crept into science research.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2010
This how Big Pharma makes us unhealthy now this kind of writting has crept into science research.
Small correction, Science Journalism, not research.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2010
A small dose of anything good while you're eating poison (margarine) will have little to no effect. These geniuses are the same people who would say that taking vitamin c while smoking for your whole lifetime would have no effect on lung cancer rates. Cut out the margarine, consume large amounts of the good oils, and then we will see!
not rated yet Sep 06, 2010
I agree with ithinkican, at the disease state there is too much wrong already. It's not curative in the least but a potent admixture to the complex inputs needed for healthy living.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.