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Fish Oil Supplements Help With Heart Failure
Date:8/31/2008

Study found a small but significant reduction in deaths; parallel study on cholesterol-lowering statin found no beneficial effect.

SUNDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Daily supplements of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids -- the kind found in fish oil -- reduced deaths and hospitalizations of people with heart failure, an Italian study found.

But a cholesterol-lowering statin drug had no beneficial effect in a parallel heart failure trial.

"This confirms what we've been seeing for a couple of decades in observational studies," Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, said of the fish oil trial. "There is a benefit of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for heart failure patients."

Both findings were published online Aug. 31 in the journal The Lancet and presented at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, in Munich, Germany.

The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) study, done by a consortium of 357 Italian cardiology centers, enlisted more than 7,000 people diagnosed with heart failure, which is the progressive loss of the heart's ability to pump blood. Half took a daily capsule containing omega-3 PUFA, the other half took a capsule with a placebo. The death rate in the PUFA group was 27 percent, compared to 29 percent in the placebo group.

That reduction might not seem like much, but it impressed Mozaffarian, who has done his own PUFA studies.

"There are few treatments we have in medicine that affect total mortality in patients," he said. "Just a handful of treatments affect total mortality. Even a small move percentage-wise is a very important effect."

In absolute terms, the Italian researchers reported that 56 people with heart failure would have to take PUFA supplements for about four years to avoid one death. The supplements also reduced hospital
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