Researchers have found that fish oil supplements may not be helpful in preventing heart attack or stroke in people with diabetes. The study also found that aspirin may be helpful in such cases but its effects are cancelled out by an increased risk of bleeding. The findings of the study were presented on August 26, 2018 at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Munich, Germany.
The results from the ASCEND study published in The New England Journal of Medicine involved nearly 15,500 people with diabetes but no signs of heart disease. Italian researchers reported that omega-3 fatty acids did not reduce the chances of death from heart disease or strokes in this group.
Half of the participants were given a daily capsule of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of a fish oil tablet while the other half were given placebo pills containing olive oil. The study was randomized so the participants did not know which pill they were taking.
Patients were observed on average for nearly 7.5 years. The study found that there wasn’t a significant difference between participants in both groups. Among those taking fish oil pills, 8.9 percent suffered from a heart attack or stroke as compared to 9.2 percent of those taking placebo pills.
The study concludes that fish oil supplements are safe but they do not have any added benefit for heart patients, therefore providing no justification for recommending fish oil supplements to people with heart diseases. However, the study does clarify the benefits of fish oil supplements for people with diabetes.
In the aspirin study, half of the randomized participants were given 100 milligrams of aspirin daily and were found to have a significantly lower rate of heart attack or stroke at 8.5 percent as compared to 9.6 percent of participants who were given the matching placebo. Though the use of aspirin to prevent a first-time heart attack is well established, its benefits are cancelled out by fatal bleeding.
Aspirin lowers the risk of cardiovascular events by 12 percent but increases the risk of bleeding (including intracranial hemorrhage, sight-threatening bleeding event in the eye, gastrointestinal bleeding, or other serious bleeding) by 29 percent.