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One Scary Side Effect of Taking Fish Oil, Says New Study

You may want to think twice before purchasing this supplement.
FACT CHECKED BY Cheyenne Buckingham

If you pride yourself on your health, and you also like to stay abreast of the latest nutrition news, there's a good chance that you've already learned a lot about the benefits of fish oil supplements and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain.

You may know that our bodies can't produce omega-3 fatty acids, so you need to get them from foods such as fish, seeds, and nuts. You may also know that they can potentially prevent cognitive disease, reduce inflammation in the body, and even clear up your skin. Now, however, researchers have found that this supplement may not be worth the sharper mind and pimple-free cheeks—turns out, omega-3 supplements could raise your risk of a specific heart rhythm disorder.

A new study from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) published in the European Heart Journal: Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy finds that, though the supplement may or may not be able to help prevent heart disease, as some research suggests, it comes with its own risks. Specifically, it could lead to atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib).

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AFib is a condition in which your heart beats irregularly, which, the ESC explains, leaves you a shocking five times more likely to suffer a stroke. Additionally, the American Heart Association (AHA) notes that AFib can also put you at increased risk of blood clots, heart failure, and other heart problems.

The study also revealed that omega-3 fatty acids can especially increase the risk of developing AFib for those who were already at high risk of cardiac issues. However, that doesn't mean that you should never order salmon at a restaurant if you have a history of heart disease. It just means that taking the supplement every day could come with some dangers that you hadn't previously considered, especially if your heart is already at risk. Plus, as previous research points out, the supplement may not even be effective at preventing heart disease.

For more on how these popular supplements could be doing more harm than good, check out this One Major Side Effect of Taking Fish Oil, Says New Study.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara