Health

Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements Linked With Heart Rhythm Disorder

Omega-3 supplements are associated with an increased likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation in people with high blood lipids. That’s the finding of a study published today in European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).[1]

“Currently, fish oil supplements are indicated for patients with elevated plasma triglycerides to reduce cardiovascular risk,”[2] said study author Dr. Salvatore Carbone of Virginia Commonwealth University, US. “Due to the high prevalence of elevated triglycerides in the population, they can be commonly prescribed. Of note, low dose omega-3 fatty acids are available over the counter, without the need for a prescription.”

Some clinical trials have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with an increased risk for atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder. People with the disorder have a five times greater likelihood of having a stroke.[3]

Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements

These studies tested different formulations of omega-3 fatty acids at different doses. The authors therefore performed a comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to answer the question of whether fish oils were consistently related to a raised risk for atrial fibrillation.

The analysis included five randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation 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 placebo and were followed up for between 2 and 7.4 years. The dose of fish oils varied from 0.84 g to 4 g per day.

The researchers found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation was associated with a significantly increased risk for atrial fibrillation compared to placebo with an incidence rate ratio of 1.37 (95% confidence interval 1.22-1.54; p<0.001).

Dr. Carbone said: “Our study suggests that fish oil supplements are associated with a significantly greater risk of atrial fibrillation in patients at elevated cardiovascular risk. Although one clinical trial indicated beneficial cardiovascular effects of supplementation,[4] 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.”

References:

  1. “Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation and risk of atrial fibrillation: an updated meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials” by Marco Lombardi, Salvatore Carbone, Marco Giuseppe Del Buono, Juan Guido Chiabrando, Giovanni Maria Vescovo, Massimiliano Camilli, Rocco Antonio Montone, Rocco Vergallo, Antonio Abbate, Giuseppe Biondi-Zoccai, Dave L Dixon and Filippo Crea, 28 April 2021, European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy.
    DOI: 10.1093/ehjcvp/pvab008
  2. Mach F, Baigent C, Catapano AL, et al. 2019 ESC/EAS Guidelines for the management of dyslipidaemias: lipid modification to reduce cardiovascular risk. Eur Heart J. 2020;41:111-188.
  3. Hindricks G, Potpara T, Nikolaos Dagres N, et al. 2020 ESC Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of atrial fibrillation developed in collaboration with the European Association of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS). Eur Heart J. 2020.
    DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa612
  4. Bhatt DL, Steg PG, Miller M, et al. Cardiovascular risk reduction with icosapent ethyl for hypertriglyceridemia. N Engl J Med. 2019;380:11-22.

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  • The researchers found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation was associated with a significantly increased risk for atrial fibrillation compared to placebo with an incidence rate ratio of 1.37 (95% confidence interval 1.22-1.54; p<0.001).

    How significant is this?

    The people with high triglycerides almost ALL benefit from the fish oil...

  • It's hard to relate to 0.84g - 4g per day. Is this saying it's not dependent on the amount of EPA & DHA, but simply the gross amount of oil? All fish oil supplements are not created equal.

  • This is really inconvenient. I just started taking a seemingly high quality fish oil supplement. What conclusions am I supposed to make from this. Take less?

  • Most fish oils are rancid by the time they make it to the shelf and that has never mentioned this article which it should be because it's probably the actual thing that's doing the problem when we get threes by themselves from different sources don't do this and that has also been proven other studies

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European Society of Cardiology

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