Sesame oil pills have been touted as a miracle treatment for heart attacks, strokes and arthritis.
But the drugs are now increasingly being prescribed for everything from migraines to diabetes.
And while they are a convenient way to get the benefits of omega-3 fats without all the pain and heart-burn associated with them, there’s now new evidence that they might actually be harmful.
The findings are from a new study that looked at the long-term health of a group of people who took fish oil pills.
“I was shocked,” says Dr. James C. Smith, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School who co-authored the study.
“The drugs work, but they make people sick.”
The study found that a group who took Sesame-oil pills for four months experienced a significant drop in their blood pressure and had a drop in blood cholesterol levels.
But they also experienced a rise in heart-break symptoms.
And for some people, the pills made them feel sick.
“You’re actually getting something that is potentially harmful,” Smith says.
He says the study, which appears in the American Journal of Cardiology, provides a cautionary tale about how a drug could cause problems in people with preexisting conditions.
“It’s very important that we not use these drugs in combination with other medications that are not recommended,” he says.
“People with preeXtensive conditions should not use the Sesame products.”
Smith says the results are consistent with previous studies showing that fish oil can cause problems.
“Fish oil is the only omega-6 fat in the body,” he adds.
“So if people are taking these pills and they’re taking a lot of fish oil, it is possible that the drug will cause a very high blood pressure or a very low blood cholesterol.
And that’s not something you want to do.”
The drug, which is manufactured by Merck & Co., is made by combining a compound called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) with a molecule called docosahexaenoic (DHA).
But Smith says these compounds are not the only ones that could be involved in causing these symptoms.
“There’s also a very large group of fish that are fish oil consumers who also consume EPA and DHA,” he notes.
“And if you’re eating a lot, it’s possible that you’re also consuming these other compounds.”
There are several potential reasons why people might be exposed to harmful levels of EPA and/or DHA in fish oil supplements.
In addition to the fact that fish oils are a high-fat, high-sugar food, there are also a few other things that fish eat that can increase the levels of these compounds in the diet.
For example, fish eat an enzyme called the sterol oxidase, which breaks down the EPA and other omega-4 fatty acids found in fish.
The higher levels of this enzyme are thought to make the fish eat less and less fish oil and consequently increase their risk of heart problems.
Another issue that’s been linked to the development of omega effects in fish is the presence of omega fatty acids in fish oils.
For years, researchers have been working to find ways to lower the level of omega 3s found in omega-8 oils.
But some studies have shown that the levels found in some fish oils could increase the risk of developing heart problems in humans.
“Some people have been really concerned about this,” says Smith.
“They’re concerned that they’re eating too much fish oil.
They’re worried that they have heart problems and that they may be developing preexistent conditions.”
For Smith, the study also shows that fish are actually responsible for a huge amount of the omega-7s in the food they eat.
“These fish are the ones that are actually increasing the levels,” he explains.
“Their bodies produce omega-9 fatty acids and they are converting them into omega-5s, and that is what is causing these heart-related problems.”
Smith also points out that fish have long been a source of omega 2 fatty acids, which are found in nuts and other plant foods.
“Those are the fatty acids that we need to help our bodies break down and to produce the vitamins we need,” he points out.
But in recent years, more studies have come out linking omega-10 fatty acids to heart problems, and now there’s a growing body of evidence linking fish to a number of other health problems.
Smith says that despite the growing evidence that fish is linked to problems, the drugs aren’t being widely prescribed.
“When you look at the evidence, it seems like it’s still pretty far away,” he tells ABC News.
“We still don’t have any evidence that it’s harmful.
And if you look across the world, we’re not seeing that yet.”
The FDA, however, is making a concerted effort to get people to switch to fish oil instead of fish.
Earlier this year,