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Omega-3 Fatty Acids vs. Olive Oil to Prevent Vascular Events

; Atlanta Vol. 22, Iss. 9,  (Sep 2019).

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Dr. Orner reports no financial relationships relevant to this field of study.

SOURCE: ASCEND Study Collaborative Group, Bowman L, Mafham M, et al. Effects of n-3 fatty acid supplements in diabetes mellitus. N Engl J Med 2018;379:1540-1550.


* This was a 7.5-year randomized, controlled trial that included 15,480 adults with diabetes mellitus in the United Kingdom.* Participants were randomized to receive a capsule containing 840 mg of marine omega-3 fatty acids (460 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid and 380 mg of docosahexaenoic acid) or olive oil (placebo) daily.* Serious vascular events occurred in 8.9% of patients in the omega-3 fatty acid group and 9.2% in the placebo group.* Those who received omega-3 fatty acid did not have significantly lower incidences of serious vascular events than those who received the olive oil placebo.

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of mortality and morbidity. There are an estimated 630,000 deaths per year in the United States from cardiovascular disease. 1 The American Heart Association continues to recommend omega-3 fatty acid consumption to the public, preferably through food, and states that it has preventive benefits even in healthy people. 2

In the ASCEND (A Study of Cardiovascular Events in Diabetes) trial, researchers assessed the efficacy of daily omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in adults with diabetes and without cardiovascular disease. 3

The researchers identified potential trial participants from regional registries and general practice data. They mailed screening questionnaires to eligible patients to determine their willingness to participate. Those interested and eligible then began a prerandomization run-in phase. The researchers requested, but did not require, that patients discontinue over-the-counter fish oil or omega-3 fatty acid supplements prior to and during the study. However, patients were still eligible to participate while taking these supplements as long as the daily dose was less than 1 g.