Fish oil found to significantly reduce heart attack risk

A new study from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) looked into the potential cardiovascular and cancer-related health benefits associated with fish oil and vitamin D. Past research has implicated both substances as potentially beneficial in these areas of health, something that spurred the researchers behind this latest study to further look into the matter. Though the substances weren't found to offer benefits in certain ways, they were linked to benefits in other aspects of cancer and heart health.

The study involved data on around 26,000 people participating in the VITAL clinical trial; it found what is referred to as 'promising signals' of certain benefits related to cancer mortality and heart attacks in people who consumed vitamin D supplements and omega-3 fatty acids, which are derived from fish oil. In the case of fish oil, the researchers noted that the substance was linked with 'significant reductions' in the number of heart attacks.

This benefit was greatest in people who didn't eat the recommended 1.5 servings of dietary fish per week, indicating that getting more fish in one's diet offers similar benefits to supplementing with fish oil. As well, the researchers note that the reduced risk appeared to be greatest in African-American participants.

Taking vitamin D supplements was also found to offer certain benefits; for example, it wasn't linked to a lowered risk of developing cancer, but it was associated with a 'significant' drop in cancer mortality. This potential benefit was found in participants who had been in the trial for a minimum of two years.

This doesn't necessarily mean that someone should start taking either of these supplements, with researchers noting that there are both risks and benefits associated with different potential interventions. The study's lead author Dr. JoAnn Manson explained, 'The pattern of findings suggests a complex balance of benefits and risks for each intervention and points to the need for additional research to determine which individuals may be most likely to derive a net benefit from these supplements.'