Fish, Soy Oil Supplements May Cut Heart Death
Improved Heart Function Seen in Small Study
WebMD News Archive
April 11, 2005 -- Taking supplements of fish oil or soy oil may help older
people avoid sudden heart death.
Chalk it up to heart health, depression, and arthritis.
researchers report in the April issue of Chest. Omega-3 fatty acids have been
studied for their effects on
This time, increased heart rate variability -- a marker of the changes in
time intervals between heartbeats -- was noted in a small group of patients who
tried fish oil or soy oil supplements for a brief time. Increased heart rate
variability has been linked to a lower risk of sudden heart death.
Heart Hazards, Heart Helpers
Of course, heart health isn't just about popping a pill.
Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, and getting
enough sleep are also important, says Holguin, an assistant professor at Emory
University's medical school.
is a leading cause of death among U.S. men and women. About
60% of all heart deaths happen suddenly, says Holguin's study.
Hearts need all the help they can get. Every day, the average heart beats
100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood. In a 70-year lifetime, an
average human heart beats more than 2.5 billion times, says the American Heart
Artery-clogging food, smoking, unchecked stress, and inactive lifestyles
make the heart's job a lot harder. Seek emergency medical treatment at the
A doctor can tell you
In a news release, Holguin says people may particularly benefit from fish
oil or soy oil pills if they have heart disease or are at increased risk for it
with conditions such as:
- High cholesterol
- Advanced age
- High blood pressure
- A history of smoking
- A family history of heart disease
Holguin's study only included people at least 60 years old. Most rarely ate
fish. It's not clear if the same results apply to younger people and those who
consume more omega-3 fatty acids from foods.
Benefits From Both Pills
Participants were 52 nursing home residents. None had heart pacemakers or
First, their heart rates were monitored for two months. Next, participants
were randomly assigned to take fish oil supplements or soy oil pills (2 grams
daily for both groups) for 11 weeks.
Every other day, their heart beats were monitored.
Both groups significantly increased their heart rate variability while
taking the supplements. Greater heart rate variability reduces the risk of
dangerous irregular heart beats or sudden death.
Fish Oil Worked Faster
Improvement came quicker and was stronger for the fish oil group. The heart
rate variability for people in that group increased after two-and-a-half
Heart function took longer to improve significantly for those taking the soy
oil pills. Their gains didn't quite match those of the fish oil group.
Both supplements were well tolerated, says the study. Side effects were
mild. Belching was reported by 41% of the fish oil group compared with 16% of
the soy oil group. Nausea affected 2% of the fish oil takers and 8% of those
taking soy oil supplements.