Fish oil is widely known for promoting overall health because of its anti-inflammatory properties. A recent government-funded study, however, has found that in addition, it can also significantly reduce the chances of heart disease for African Americans.
The research, which was published last weekend in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that African-American participants who took one gram of fish oil daily, for an average of five years, were 77 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those who were given a placebo, reports NPR. Of the 26,000 healthy adults studied (all of whom were age 50 and older), twenty percent—or about 5,200—were African Americans.
To conduct their study, researchers broke the large group into four smaller ones to see how both vitamin D and fish oil might affect overall health. The first group took both the fish oil and 2,000 international units of vitamin D on the daily. The second took the vitamin D and a placebo. The third took the fish oil and a placebo. And finally, the last group took a double dose of placebos. "Overall, [the results] showed that neither fish oil nor vitamin D actually lowered the incidence of heart disease or cancer," says Lawrence Fine, MD, chief of the clinical application and prevention branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Understandably, the findings were considered disappointing...until researchers started looking at smaller segments of the study's population and discovered that both African Americans and people who didn't eat fish on a daily basis were both found to benefit from the extra Omega-3s. Talk about a silver lining.
Although more research still needs to be done, JoAnn Manson, MD, lead researcher and chief of the division of preventive medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital says that "in the meantime, it would be reasonable for African Americans to talk with their health care providers about whether they may be candidates for taking fish oil supplements."
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