Shows Supplements 'Flounder' in Preventing Stroke; Fish Diet May
Fish oil supplements don't pack the same stroke-preventive punch
as a diet rich in fish, a new study suggests. Eating foods rich
in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish and some plant and nut
oils, such as olive and walnut, has been shown to lower the risk
of heart disease and stroke. Several public health organizations
have recommended that people eat more oily fish, such as salmon
But the role of omega-3 supplements in fighting cardiovascular disease
has been less clear. Some studies show they have a protective effect
and others show the opposite, says Craig Anderson, MD, director
of the neurological and mental health division at the George Institute
for International Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.
Anderson reasoned that if the supplements were really working to
prevent stroke, they would modify the underlying disease process
by lowering cholesterol and preventing blood clotting and other
factors that contribute to stroke. "What did we show? Nothing,"
Anderson said. "The supplements didn't work."
The study, presented at the American Stroke Association's International
Stroke Conference, involved 102 men and women who had suffered an
ischemic stroke which occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain
is compromised by a blood clot. "We focused on ischemic stroke
patients because they're highly motivated to follow preventive measures,
they're at high risk of recurrent stroke, and they haven't been
studied before," Anderson says.
The participants were randomly assigned to take either a daily fish
oil supplement or a placebo for 12 weeks. The supplements used in
the study contained "more concentrated, fresher omega oils
than can be bought in most health food stores," Anderson says.
Results shows that the supplements had no effect on any of the parameters
measured, including total cholesterol, LDL, HDL cholesterols, and
other lipid levels. There was no change in markers of the tendency
of blood to clot and no evidence of an anti-inflammatory effect.
Inflammation of the blood vessels may play a role on causing stroke.
Jeffrey Saver, MD, vice chairman of the American Heart Association's
Stroke Council and a professor of neurology at UCLA, says the findings
are "disappointing." "This is one of the first studies
of its kind. But [there were limitations, chiefly its] small size
and the fact that they looked only at physiological outcome measures
and not at clinical outcomes such as prevention of second stroke."
Anderson agrees that further study looking at whether the pills
can cut strokes and deaths is merited. "But this is a real
thorn. For now, I recommend that people don't throw their money
away on fish oil supplements. Fresh fish may be a better choice,"
that have a positive EBT HeartScan or Full VascularScan at PrevaHealth
are advised, regardless of whether they have or not have had a heart
attack, that diet is an important part of reducing risk and their
referring doctor can help them manage their risk. Evidence indicates
that adequate dietary intake of ?-3 PUFA should be part of any cardiac
prevention program. Their referring doctor should guide them to
make good choices.
~John A. Rumberger M.D. FACC