Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the US. One prevention strategy has been the use of omega-3 supplements, which contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two main fatty acids that have been shown to protect against CVD.

Studies of omega-3 supplements have not consistently shown positive results, but a new review of 40 clinical studies, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, gives strong evidence that there are substantial benefits. The 40 studies included more than 135,000 participants. This evidence includes and builds on a review from the Harvard School of Public Health that found similar benefits when reviewing the 13 largest omega-3 clinical trials in 2019.

The researchers examined randomized control trials, which means the studies compared benefits in people taking omega-3 supplements with people not taking supplements. The trials indicated that the percentage at which omega-3 reduced the risk of heart attack and deaths from heart attack and coronary events such as angina, stroke, heart failure and peripheral artery disease.

The review of these studies, when taken all together, found these key benefits for people taking omega-3 supplements versus people not taking the supplements…

  • A 35% reduced risk of death from heart attack.
  • A 13% reduced risk of heart attack.
  • A 10% reduced risk of coronary events.
  • An overall decreased risk of death from coronary disease of 9%.

The studies included omega-3 doses from 400 mg to 5,500 mg per day. As the amount of omega-3 used in the research increased, so did the benefits. Adding 1,000 mg per day decreased the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Heart attack risk went down by about 9% for each 1,000 mg added up to 5,500 mg.

Takeaway: Although omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from eating fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies and sardines, very few people eat enough of this kind of seafood to get substantial benefits. The researchers recommend taking 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg of omega-3 supplements every day as an inexpensive and safe way to improve heart health and reduce heart disease risk.  Note: Because omega-3 supplements may increase bleeding risk, speak to your doctor before starting to use these supplements if you take a blood thinner.

Source: Study titled “Effect of Omega-3 Dosage on Cardiovascular Outcomes: An Updated Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression of Interventional Trials,” by researchers at Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s, Salt Lake City, et al., published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.