Does Fish Oil Cause Heart Problems?

New research links fish oil supplementation to atrial fibrillation. However, the real issue might be something else the study found.

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Every weekday, we make sense of the confusing world of wellness by analyzing the headlines, simplifying the latest research, and offering quick tips designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The problem with fish oil supplements

  • How to knock out hangovers

  • Maybe there is a magic pill

Arnold’s Podcast

Want more stories from Arnold? Every day, Arnold’s Pump Club Podcast opens with a story, perspective, and wisdom from Arnold that you won’t find in the newsletter. And, you’ll hear a recap of the day’s items. You can subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Problem With Fish Oil Supplements 

If you haven’t seen it already, you will soon. “Fish Oil Supplements Increase Risk of Stroke” will be a popular headline, and there’s some truth to the latest research. However, the part that matters most is being glossed over by most news outlets.

New research suggests that fish oil consumption — by healthy individuals — might lead to heart conditions like atrial fibrillation. But before you stop taking fish oil completely, there are a few important details to consider.

Scientists followed more than 400,000 people for 12 years who used fish oil supplements and then tracked their health outcomes. Healthy individuals who used fish oil supplements were associated with a 13 percent greater risk of developing atrial fibrillation and a 5 percent increased risk of stroke. 

But, omega-3 supplements were also associated with a 15 percent lower risk for people with a known heart condition. 

How can both of these be true?

First, the researchers did not track the dose, frequency, or composition of the fish oil used by participants. So, it’s impossible to say what is too much or problematic. 

More importantly, as the scientists point out, those who saw benefits were likely using prescription fish oil, which research suggests can be effective for heart health and doesn’t carry the same risks as over-the-counter, non-tested supplements. This brings up the real elephant in the room — fish oil quality. 

The supplement industry is the wild wild west. Many ingredients are over-hyped. However, even the potentially good supplements have quality control issues. 

In a different study on fish oil, 32 supplements were analyzed, and only three contained the amount of EPA and DHA on the label. And two-thirds of the products had less than 67 percent of the claimed dose.

That’s why we only recommend purchasing NSF Certified For Sport or Informed Sport approved supplements, such as Momentous Omega-3. The certifications are very expensive, so most brands don’t include them. But they are your best line of defense for quality and purity.

Products with those third-party certifications are guaranteed to have accurate labels, no banned substances or contaminants, and safe levels of toxins or metals. Without those guarantees, you’re taking a risk buying fish oil (and any supplement).

Still, it’s important to note that research on fish oil supplements is mixed depending on your health needs (to be clear, fish is healthy, but the use of supplements is less clear). Some doctors won’t recommend fish oil supplements if you have good cardiovascular health. Other research suggests the combination might help lower triglycerides and LDL, and it could help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. If you have questions or are unsure, it’s best to check with your doctor. 

How To Knock Out Hangovers

The first rule of avoiding hangovers is to not drink in a way that will cause a hangover. But if you have a few more than usual, science suggests you don’t have to suffer so much the next day. 

Research suggests what you do before, during, and after you booze can help limit or prevent the negative symptoms of too much alcohol. 

Your hangovers are the result of how well your body metabolizes alcohol. When you drink alcohol, two enzymes help you break down alcohol. Some people produce less of one enzyme (aldehyde dehydrogenase or ALDH2), which leaves you with a pounding headache. 

We’re not recommending drinking, and it’s important to be responsible. But if you drink, the first step to outsmarting a hangover is making sure you don’t have an empty stomach. One study found that eating a 700-calorie meal (either high in carbs or fat) lowered blood alcohol levels and resulted in alcohol leaving the bloodstream faster.

Next, do the most basic thing and drink more water. Part of the hell of hangovers is because you’re dehydrated. 

After the night is over, research suggests that most hangover supplements don’t work, but a few ingredients — Korean pear juice, red ginseng, Panax ginseng, and l-cysteine — show potential. In fact, in one study, participants who got hammered in the name of science had less nausea and fewer headaches when supplementing with 1,200 mg of l-cysteine. 

The next day, if you’re still not feeling well and your head is pounding, drink electrolytes and caffeine, and add some Vitamins B and C, and zinc — all of which are depleted when you drink. 

Maybe There Is A Magic Pill…

We’ve often told you that there’s no such thing as a magic pill. But maybe we should slightly adjust that to, there’s no magic pill…you can buy

Research suggests that any type of exercise can elevate mood, increase happiness, and help fight against depression

This isn’t the first study to draw a positive connection between movement and mental health, but the scope of the study might be the first to show that any exercise in almost any amount is exactly what your body wants (and needs). 

Researchers examined 218 randomized controlled trials focusing on more than 14,000 people suffering from major depressive disorder. They found that everything from walking and dancing to strength training, yoga, and cycling improved depressive symptoms — and were even as effective as some prescription medications and therapy. The only intervention that didn’t work was general exercise advice because it didn’t help people take action. 

The best approach appears to be a combination of therapy, movement, and medication, consistently leading to improved outcomes.

If you’re in a dark place or struggling, this advice might seem insensitive because exercise could feel like the last thing you can do. But the study is a sign of hope that even something little — like a low-intensity walk — can trigger chemical changes that can help elevate your mood. And as you become more active, higher intensities could have even more of a positive impact. 

While researchers have many theories on why exercise helps, it could be linked to how exercise stimulates your brain’s ability to alter neural pathways, which could help break negative thought patterns that include stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. 

Remember: the latest research shows that exercise type doesn’t matter; it all leads to improvements. And — even if you don’t struggle with depression — exercise can light up your mind, elevate your mood, spark creativity, and do all of the things so many pills and potions promise but can’t back up.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell