According to a new meta-analysis of recent clinical trial data, taking daily omega-3 supplements could protect against heart attacks.
These were the findings of an updated meta-analysis that pooled data from 13 trials involving more than 125,000 participants.
Previously pooled analyses have yielded mixed results on whether daily omega-3 fish oil supplements can reduce heart risks.
However, the new study included data from three large scale recently completed trials, which increased the number of participants by 64%.
The inclusion of the new data had a "substantial influence on the available evidence," note the authors in a recent paper about the study.
"This meta-analysis," says first study author Yang Hu, Ph.D., of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, "provides the most up-to-date evidence regarding the effects of omega-3 supplementation on risk of multiple [cardiovascular disease] outcomes."
An 8% reduction in risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular events may seem modest to individuals.
However, Hu and colleagues point out that since these events affect millions of people worldwide every year, even a modest risk reduction can mean hundreds of thousands fewer heart attacks and premature deaths.
Role and sources of omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the two main types of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), the other being omega-6.
Fatty acids have many vital roles in the body. They are essential components of the fat molecules that form cell walls. They also help to produce energy and make molecules called eicosanoids that perform signaling functions in many body processes, including the cardiovascular system.