A study in American Heart Association’s journal Circulation shows that fish oil is better than current therapies for treating patients who experienced a heart attack. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil was proven to improve the heart’s function and decrease scarring in undamaged heart muscles.

Post-heart attack patients suffer from alterations in their heart shape and function, which could lead to heart failure. Unfortunately, the therapies to treat this are currently limited.

The researchers wanted to find out if omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can do what expensive therapies cant.  For their study funded by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the research team gave 360 test heart attack survivors placebo and four grams of omega-3 fatty acids every day for six months. They also conducted blood tests on these participants.

Those who received omega-3 fatty acids experienced a 5.8 percent reduction in ventricular end-systolic volume index, which can predict a heart attack patient’s outcome. These also reduced the fibrosis or scarring of the non-damaged heart muscle by up to 5.6 percent.

The omega-3 fatty acids improved the heart’s contraction. The biomarkers for inflammation were also reduced, indicating that the omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory benefits.

The researchers claim that the treatment is safe. Their findings are supported by other research that demonstrated these fatty acids improve a patient’s survival rate after suffering a heart attack.

“Heart failure is still a major problem after a heart attack despite all the therapy we have and the advances in interventional care,” says senior author Raymond Kwong from the Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. “Our findings show that omega-3 fatty acids are a safe and effective treatment in improving cardiac remodeling, so it may be promising in reducing the incidence of heart failure or death, which are still major healthcare burdens to patients who suffer a heart attack.”