A recent study by Canadian researchers suggests that high doses of fish oil to combat atrial fibrillation could have no result. Atrial fibrillation is a common condition in which the heart rate is irregular and can race up to 150 beats per minute. A normal heart rate is around 70 beats per minute.
For the study, lead researcher Dr. Anil Nigam, an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Montreal and his colleges randomly assigned 337 patients with atrial fibrillation who were not being treated with medications to prevent the abnormal heart rhythm. Thay were given 4 grams of fish oil a day or a placebo, treatment they followed for up to 16 months. The results showed that 64.1 percent of those taking fish oil for its omega-3 fatty acids experienced new bouts of atrial fibrillation, compared to 63.2 percent of those taking a placebo.
Fish oil supplements also did not reduce the twin ills of inflammation or oxidative stress, which may explain why they didn’t guard against atrial fibrillation, the study authors noted.
According to the Heart Rhythm Society, 2.7 million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation, and that number is likely to increase as the population ages. The condition increases the risk of stroke fivefold and is responsible for 88,000 deaths each year.
Certain risk factors are associated with the development of atrial fibrillation, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and sleep apnea, Nigam said. Some heart conditions, such as heart failure and heart valve problems, can also increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.
“For most people without heart problems, we believe a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle, and a good control of risk factors, can probably help reduce the risk of developing this condition, although this has not been studied per se,” Nigam said.
He added that recent studies have found no benefit from fish oil supplements in people with heart disease who are being optimally treated and whose heart is working normally.
“However, people with poor heart function might still benefit from taking fish oil supplements,” Nigam said. “What is better and should be recommended is a Mediterranean-type diet rich in natural omega-3 fats and other nutrients, including fresh fruits and veggies, legumes, olive oil, while lowering intake of red meat, trans fats and saturated fats,” he said.
For patients with atrial fibrillation, prescribing traditional medications to prevent this abnormal heartbeat is the most common treatment. Patients may also need to take a blood thinner to help reduce the risk of stroke, he said. In addition, some patients can benefit from a procedure called catheter ablation, which in essence, burns tiny sections of the heart to prevent the recurrence of atrial fibrillation, Fonarow added.
Through: Health Library