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On average, the patients ate about 4 teaspoons (18.8 grams) of margarine a day, spread on bread at meals, Kromhout said. During the 3 1/2 years they were followed, 671 patients, or 14 percent, had a heart problem or died. There was no difference between the groups, no matter what kind of margarine they ate.
Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said it may have been a matter of too little, too late -- the dose was small and the patients were enrolled many years after their initial heart attack -- on average four years.
"If you wait too long, sometimes you miss that window to benefit them," Kopecky said.
He said he tells his heart patients to take 1,000 milligrams of fish oil daily.
"The benefit potentially is so great, that we tend to put patients on it quite often," he said.
Since the Dutch study was in heart attack survivors, Lichtenstein said it still isn't known whether omega-3s can protect against a first heart attack or help those patients who don't get such good care.
The study was funded by the Netherlands Heart Foundation and the U.S. Institutes of Health. Unilever, which makes an omega-3 enriched margarine, provided the margarines.
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
Heart Association: http://bit.ly/4u4K2D
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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