Fish and Fish Oil (OMEGA 3) Prevent Abnormal Heart Rhythms
Ample evidence has already shown that eating fatty fish and supplementing
with fish oil can reduce heart-attack risk. One study found that eating
fatty fish regularly reduces the risk of fatal heart attack by 50%. Several
others have also found that people getting high amounts of the fats from
fish have a lower likelihood of sudden heart-related death. Eating fish can
improve the function of the heart muscle, prevent clots from forming and
blocking the blood vessels of the heart, and reduce blood pressure and
inflammation. Recent evidence suggests that these fats might also prevent
dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythm.
A healthy heart's rhythm is regulated by electrical signals to the heart
muscle that come from a single point within the heart. When signals from
this point come in abnormally rapid succession, or when signals come from
other places in the heart, they disrupt the normal rhythm and cause
arrhythmias. Some severe types of arrhythmia can lead to heart attack,
stroke, or sudden death.
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In the first of the new studies, 65 people with arrhythmia were randomly
assigned to receive either 3 grams of fish oil (providing 1 gram of omega-3
fatty acids) per day or placebo for six months. Blood tests were performed
and heart rhythms were assessed during the six-month trial and for six
months after stopping the supplements.
Compared with the beginning of the study, people receiving fish oil had
significantly fewer and less severe arrhythmias. People taking fish oil had
46.9%, 67.8%, 71.8%, and 100% fewer occurrences of the four types of
arrhythmia monitored in this study (atrial premature complexes, ventricular
premature complexes, couplets, and triplets). Six months after stopping the
fish oil, these improvements were reversed and all measurements were
similar to those from the beginning of the study. People receiving placebo
experienced no significant changes in arrhythmia frequency during the
In the other study, 4,815 people over the age of 65 years were given food
questionnaires at the beginning of the study. The participants were
monitored for a potentially serious type of arrhythmia known as atrial
fibrillation. They were followed for 12 years through annual physical exams
and electrocardiographs to assess heart rhythms, and through reviewing
records from all hospital visits.
Frequent fish eaters were found to have a lower risk of developing atrial
fibrillation than people who were not. Compared with eating fish less than
once per month, eating fish one to three times per month was linked to a
24% reduction in risk of atrial fibrillation, eating fish one to four times
per week was linked to a 30% reduction in risk, and eating fish five or
more times per week reduced the risk by 35%. Frequently eating fried fish
and fish sandwiches increased, rather than decreased, risk of atrial
The results of these studies add to the evidence that fats from fish might
reduce the risk of arrhythmias that can lead to heart attack, stroke, or
sudden death. In elderly people, eating fatty fish reduced the risk of
atrial fibrillation, and in people with existing arrhythmias, supplementing
with fish oil reduced the number and severity of episodes of arrhythmia.
These findings taken together suggest another way in which fats from fish
might lower the risk of heart attack.
Healthnotes Newswire (September 9, 2004)-Eating fatty fish, such as salmon,
tuna, mackerel, and cod, and supplementing with fish oil both reduce the
risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), according to two
recent studies (Circulation 2004;110:368-73 and Prostaglandins,
Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids 2004;71:153-9).
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