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Omega-3 fatty acids may protect against irregular heartbeat

Published on

30 March 2012

Increased blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation in elderly by about 25%, suggests a new US study.

In the observational study blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and cases of atrial fibrillation were measured among 3,326 men and women with an average age of 74 over a period of 14 years (1). The study results showed that the highest average levels of total omega-3 fatty acids and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were associated with an up to 29% reduction in the risk of atrial fibrillation, compared with the lowest average levels. When evaluated in percent of total fatty acids, each percentage point rise in total omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a 9% reduction in risk of atrial fibrillation, which is the most common irregular heartbeat ( chronic arrhythmia) in adults.

The researchers concluded that omage-3 atty acids could be beneficial for the prevention of onset of atrial fibrillation in older individuals, a group at particularly high risk. And they stressed that given the limited treatment options once atrial fibrillation develops, the results highlighted the need to investigate atrial physiological and arrhythmic mechanisms affected by total and individual omega-3 fatty acids. Furthermore, they recommended testing the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids in preventing onset of atrial fibrillation among older adults in a randomized controlled trial.

Several national and international dietary guidelines recommend one to two servings per week of preferably oily fish to obtain about 250 mg or more omega-3 fatty acids per day, based on the consistency of evidence supporting the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease -related mortality.


  1. Wu J. H. Y. et al. Association of Plasma Phospholipid Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids With Incident Atrial Fibrillation in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. Circulation. 2012; 125:1084–1093.

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