Plain language summary
There is mixed evidence to support the use of omega-3 fatty acids for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Animal studies have shown promising results, but randomised control trials are inconsistent, possibly due to differing doses used, or differences in the subject’s omega-3 levels at the start of the trial. This meta-analysis of 40 studies with over 135,000 subjects aimed to determine whether omega-3 supplementation reduces heart disease risk and whether dosage has a role. The results showed that omega-3 supplementation reduced the risk of heart attacks, death from heart attacks and deaths due to heart disease, and the higher the dose, the greater the protection. The majority of studies were on individuals who had already had a heart attack or who had suffered from a related condition. It was concluded that supplementation with omega-3 is effective in preventing heart disease and heart attacks and the protective effect increases with dosage. This study could be used by healthcare professionals to prevent further heart disease and heart attacks in individuals who have already suffered from one of these conditions.
OBJECTIVES To quantify the effect of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids on cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention and the effect of dosage. METHODS This study is designed as a random effects meta-analysis and meta-regression of randomized control trials with EPA/DHA supplementation. This is an update and expanded analysis of a previously published meta-analysis which covers all randomized control trials with EPA/DHA interventions and cardiovascular outcomes published before August 2019. The outcomes included are myocardial infarction (MI), coronary heart disease (CHD) events, CVD events (a composite of MI, angina, stroke, heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, sudden death, and non-scheduled cardiovascular surgical interventions), CHD mortality and fatal MI. The strength of evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation framework. RESULTS A total of 40 studies with a combined 135,267 participants were included. Supplementation was associated with reduced risk of MI (relative risk [RR], 0.87; 95% CI, 0.80 to 0.96), high certainty number needed to treat (NNT) of 272; CHD events (RR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.84 to 0.97), high certainty NNT of 192; fatal MI (RR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.46 to 0.91]), moderate certainty NNT = 128; and CHD mortality (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.85 to 0.98), low certainty NNT = 431, but not CVD events (RR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.90 to 1.00). The effect is dose dependent for CVD events and MI. CONCLUSION Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. Supplementation with EPA and DHA is an effective lifestyle strategy for CVD prevention, and the protective effect probably increases with dosage.