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Fish Oil May Not Benefit Heart Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

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Atrial Fibrillation related image Photo: Getty Images

It’s long been recognized that unsaturated fats, also known as omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and certain other foods are good for your heart health. Eating one or two servings of fish per week is thought to significantly reduce your risk of developing heart disease, lower your bad low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and reduce your overall risk of dying of heart disease, heart attack, or heart failure. Even the American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week to promote healthy hearts. It’s not uncommon to find healthy heart conscious individuals supplementing their diet with fish oil omega-3 to gain the maximum protective benefits to their heart. Unfortunately, new research indicates that fish oil may not provide protective benefits for all types of heart conditions.

Atrial fibrillation is a common type of heart arrhythmia where the upper chambers of the heart not only beat irregularly but are also out of sync with the lower chambers of the heart. Think of it in terms of a dance where the upper chambers are beating to a waltz and suddenly break into a polka, only to discover that the band has been playing a two-step the entire time. Not a good combination! Because atrial fibrillation impacts the blood flow, affected persons often suffer from shortness of breath, general weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, and possible heart palpitations. It can also lead to stroke.

In a recent study, researchers examined the effect of fish oil consumption on patients with atrial fibrillations. As a part of the study, researchers followed a group of 527 participants for a 6-month period. Half of the participants were given regular high-dose fish oil supplements and the other half was given a placebo. At the end of the study, researchers found no difference between the two groups with respect to the number of participants who suffered a recurrence of atrial fibrillation.

Researchers indicated that similar studies which focused on the effects of fish oil on arrhythmia patients have produced mixed results with some studies finding that the patients benefited from fish oil consumption while other studies reported no measurable benefit. More studies are sure to follow as researchers attempt to determine if the protective benefits of fish oil extend to atrial fibrillation patients as well.

Nathan Seppa, Fish Oil Fails to Hold Off Heart Arrhythmia, Atrial fibrillation patients who took the capsules had about as many episodes as those on placebo, US News, 16 Nov 2010, http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2010/11/16/fish-oil-fails-to-hold-off-heart-arrhythmia.html

Atrial Fibrillation, The Mayo Clinic, 14 Feb 2009, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/atrial-fibrillation/DS00291

Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart, The Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/omega-3/HB00087

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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