By Nancy Clanton, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Troy Warren for CNT
Although Omega-3 fatty acids have shown benefits for some, they could be harmful to others
Omega-3 supplements have been used in clinical practice to reduce cardiovascular disease risk in patients with elevated plasma triglycerides, but a recent meta-analysis has found fish oil pills might not be a good alternative for many.
Some clinical trials have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with an increased risk for atrial fibrillation. People with the disorder have a five times greater likelihood of having a stroke.
“Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most prevalent sustained cardiac arrhythmia worldwide and it is associated with high morbidity and mortality, ultimately making it a major public health burden,” the researchers wrote in their article, which was published recently in European Heart Journal — Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy.
For their analysis, the researchers — in the United States, Italy and Argentina — included five randomised controlled trials investigating the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplements on cardiovascular outcomes.
Participants had elevated triglycerides and were either at high risk for cardiovascular disease or had established cardiovascular disease. A total of 50,277 patients received fish oils or a placebo, and were followed for between two and 7.4 years. The dose of fish oils varied from 0.84 grams to 4 grams per day.
The researchers found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements were associated with a significantly increased risk for atrial fibrillation compared to the placebo.
“Our study suggests that fish oil supplements are associated with a significantly greater risk of atrial fibrillation in patients at elevated cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Salvatore Carbone, with the department of kinesiology and health sciences at the College of Humanities & Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University.
“Although one clinical trial indicated beneficial cardiovascular effects of supplementation, the risk for atrial fibrillation should be considered when such agents are prescribed or purchased over the counter, especially in individuals susceptible to developing the heart rhythm disorder,” he added.
The researchers concluded that their study suggests fish oil supplements are associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation in patients with elevated plasma triglyceride and at elevated cardiovascular risk, and proposes the risk of atrial fibrillation be considered when prescribing supplements of Omega-3 fatty acids to this group.