Popular supplement linked to increased heart, stroke risk

Regular use of fish oil supplements can increase the risk of stroke and atrial fibrillation in the general population, but shows benefits for those with existing heart disease, a recent study found.

The study, led by researchers from Saint Louis University and Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, and published May 21 in BMJ Medicine, analyzed data on over 415,000 people ages 40 to 69 participating in the U.K. Biobank, a longitudinal study of the health of people in the United Kingdom. Participants were followed for an average of 12 years and were ages 40 to 69.

About a third of participants said they regularly used fish oil supplements. 

The study found that for people without cardiovascular issues, regular fish oil use increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation by 13% and increased the risk of stroke by 5%.

However, for people with existing heart disease, fish oil use lowered the risk of progressing Afib to a heart attack by 15% and lowered the risk of progressing heart failure to death by 9%.

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