Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements
Omega-3 fish-oil supplements may have heart-protective benefits and reduce the “overall atherothombotic risk profile” of patients with suspected coronary artery disease (CAD), new research presented at the American College of Cardiology 2015 Scientific Sessions suggests.
The study, which included 600 subjects with suspected CAD, found that those who took fish-oil supplements had significantly lower levels of inflammation, blood-clot formation, and lipid biomarkers. The effect was particularly powerful in people who were not taking cholesterol-lowering medications.
“In clinical-trial data, there’s a lot of controversy about whether these supplements really affect outcomes,” lead study author Paul Gurbel, MD, of the Sinai Center for Thrombosis Research, in Baltimore, told Medscape Cardiology.
“But if we personalize therapy with the fish oil to assess response based on fairly validated biomarkers, then I think there’s hope for fish oil as a beneficial antithrombotic strategy—and maybe a competitor for statins,” continued Dr. Gurbel.
The study adds to other new research about the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, particularly for people with CAD. These patients may want to discuss supplements with their medical provider. A blood test called OmegaCheck™ can measure the balance of healthy and unhealthy fats and determine if dietary changes or supplements may be needed.
Here are more findings from the research front about which supplements may be particularly beneficial for heart health.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
In a randomized clinical trial involving 420 patients with heart failure, those who took C0Q 10 supplements three times a day for two years had fewer hospital stays and lower rates of cardiovascular mortality than the placebo group (9 percent versus 16 percent) All patients also received standard therapy. The findings were published in JACC: Heart Failure in December, 2014.
A 2013 randomized trial reported that over a five-year period, supplementation with COQ10 and selenium halved the rate of CV mortality in older adults ages 70 to 88, compared to the placebo group. Research also shows that CoQ10 helps protect against inflammation and may reduce muscle pain in patients taking statin drugs. Levels of CoQ10, which have important antioxidant properties, tend to drop in older adults and can be measured with a blood test.
As we recently reported, vitamin D deficiency may be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of Americans. Not only are up to 75 percent of Americans low in the sunshine vitamin, but even those who do get the RDA (recommended daily allowance) may not be getting the optimal dose to reduce risk for diseases linked to deficiency, such as CVD, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Two teams of scientists report that a “calculation error” by previous investigators may have greatly underestimated the RDA for vitamin D, which is currently 600 IU per day for people ages 1 to 70 and 800 IU for older ages. In a letter published in the journal Nutrients this month, researchers from University of California San Diego and Creighton University call for the RDA to be raised to approximately 7,000 IU from all sources (diet, supplements and sun exposure), based on their studies and prior research by University of Alberta School of Public Health.
However, the Institute of Medicine stands by the current RDA, while other medical groups have varying recommendations. Until this controversy is resolved, patients are best advised to discuss their vitamin D requirements with their doctor and find out if they need a blood test to check for deficiency.
Vitamin B3–also called niacin—(must be nicotinic acid, not niacinamide) has been used for decades to improve cholesterol levels.
Although it has fallen out of favor in recent years with many medical providers, patients who have a strong family history of premature heart disease caused by a genetic disorder may indeed benefit. The European Atherosclerosis Society advises niacin as the best therapy for patients with elevated levels of lipoprotein “little a”, or Lp(a), a dangerous type of cholesterol that can double or even triple heart attack risk. A simple blood test is available to check for elevated Lp(a), a condition found in about 20 percent of the population. In a 2014 study, checking Lp(a) levels improved heart disease risk prediction by nearly 40 percent.
Niacin may also cause changes in blood sugar levels and liver enzymes, so be sure to talk with your doctor before taking niacin products.
By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Americans are low in this essential mineral. In a recent study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers checked the magnesium levels of 7,664 initially healthy people, who were then tracked for a median of 10.5 years. Those with the lowest levels were 70 percent more likely to die from heart disease, compared to people with higher levels, even after accounting for other cardiovascular threats.
Based on these findings, the study concluded that low magnesium (which can be detected with a blood test) may be an independent risk factor for heart disease, while increasing intake of this mineral may be protective.
Patients should consult a doctor before taking supplements, as they may interact with certain medications.