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NEJM article on n-3 fatty acids in in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors


On May 9th, 2013, a study by the Risk and Prevention Study Collaborative Group has been published in the renowned New England Journal of Medicine (1). It was investigated if a daily supplementation of 1 g of omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) over 5 years in optimally treated patients (n = 12.513) with multiple cardiovascular risk factors but without cardiovascular events so far has an additional preventive benefit. The study results showed neither greater reduction of mortality risk due to cardiovascular events nor a reduction in the risk of developing further cardiovascular complications among the intervention group compared with the placebo group.

The authors conceded that the occurrence of cardiovascular events was clearly below their expectations in general. This could be due to an optimal treatment and/or due to positive nutritional habits with fish consumption above average. However the results showed 2 significant outcomes: a reduction in hospital admissions for heart failure with n−3 fatty acids and their preventive effect in women. The interpretation of these findings has to be left open at this point.
Another limitation of the study was the lack of blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Experts commented the publicly available scientific data taken altogether does demonstrate a cardiovascular benefit of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid in healthy populations, as well as in the majority of populations with pre-existing cardiovascular ailments; thus, the new results cannot be generalized.
Such an expert opinion about omega-3 fatty acids in disease prevention by our board member Prof Philip Calder can be found here (2). 

(1) Risk and Prevention Study Collaborative Group. n−3 Fatty Acids in Patients with Multiple Cardiovascular Risk Factors. N Engl J Med. 2013 May 30;368(22):2146

(2) Philip Calder in Nutri-Facts expert opintion, May 1st, 2013: Omega-3 fatty acids in disease prevention: a general overview