Fish oils and Atrial Fibrillation
It is important you read this report in context that the information only pertains to preventing AF in patients who have had an AF diagnosis with fish oils. There are lots of other benefits to individuals who take omega-3 fish oils.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
“The results for atrial fibrillation are important negative findings, answering key clinical and research questions,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an omega-3 expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.
The new research, combined with other trials, “indicates that short-term fish oil use is unlikely to prevent recurrent atrial fibrillation,” he said.
Atrial fibrillation, in which the heart’s upper chambers beat out of step with those below. The condition is linked to strokes and heart failure.
Although doctors prescribe certain medications to treat the condition, none to date has proven particularly effective. As a result, most drug treatment focuses on preventing strokes by administering blood thinners to dissolve clots caused by the fibrillation.
Some evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish like sardines and tuna, might reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation, although exactly how they would produce their effect is not clear.
A study published earlier this year in Circulation, for example, found that people with the most omega-3s in their blood had a 30% lower chance of developing an irregular heart beat than those with the lowest concentrations of the substances.
That 30% difference would work out to eight fewer cases of atrial fibrillation per 100 people – which would be a meaningful benefit if it could be enjoyed by those with fibrillation or at risk for it, just by consuming more omega 3s.
But the latest study suggests that it probably can’t. The trial included 586 men and women with a history of atrial fibrillation who were given a gram a day of fish oil or dummy capsules for a year. Participants also were allowed to take other drugs to control their heart rhythms, as prescribed by their doctors.
At the end of the study period, about 24% of the people who took fish oil, and 20% of those who did not, had experienced a recurrence of atrial fibrillation – a difference so small, statistically, it was likely due to chance.
The findings on atrial fibrillation echo results from a study led by Mozaffarian published in November, of patients recovering from heart surgery.
Even so, Dr. Alejandro Macchia, a cardiologist at the GESICA Foundation in Buenos Aires, who led the current study and collaborated with Mozaffarian on the previous one, said fish oil may still prove beneficial for heart health, at least in some patients.