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Med J Aust 2020; 212 (6): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50555
Published online: 6 April 2020

Regularly taking fish oil supplements may be linked to a lower risk of death and cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, such as heart attack and stroke, according to an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published in The BMJ. The analysis included 427 678 men and women aged 40–69 years who did not have CVD or cancer, were enrolled in the study from 2006 to 2010, and completed a questionnaire on supplements use. Estimates of all‐cause mortality, CVD deaths, and CVD events, such as heart attack and stroke, to 2018 were based upon death certificates and hospital records. At the start of the study, almost one‐third of participants (31%) reported taking regular fish oil supplements. The researchers found that fish oil supplements were associated with 13% lower risk of all‐cause mortality, 16% lower risk of CVD mortality, and 7% lower risk of CVD events (388 fewer all‐cause deaths, 124 fewer CVD deaths, and 295 fewer CVD events per 100 000 people; median follow‐up, 9 years). The association between fish oil use and CVD events was stronger for people with high blood pressure. These favourable associations remained after correcting for traditional risk factors, such as age, sex, lifestyle, diet, medications, and other supplement use. Mechanisms that could explain the findings include the fact that omega‐3 fatty acid supplements have known benefits for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart rate, all of which would reduce the likelihood of CVD events. Despite the large sample size, this observational study cannot establish causation, and the lack of information on the dosage, duration, and side effects of fish oil use limit their interpretation.



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