Don’t pop Fish Oil supplements mindlessly: New Research links Omega-3 fatty acid with heart rhythm disorder

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Fish oil supplements&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • Many of us regularly take vitamin supplements; some prescribed by doctors and other supplements because we have been told they are good for us.
  • Now a new study involving over 50K participants has thrown light on the possibility that Omega-3 fatty acid fish oil supplements can cause heart rhythm disorder aka atrial fibrillation.
  • Atrial fibrillation can cause strokes in patients with lipid related and cardiovascular issues.

A new study now establishes that fish oil supplements may be linked to a heart rhythm disorder. The findings of the study have been published in European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy – a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Omega-3 supplements have found to be likely associated with an increased likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation in people with high blood lipids. Doctors routinely prescribe fish oil supplements for patients with elevated plasma triglycerides to reduce cardiovascular risk.  “Due to 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,” Dr Salvatore Carbone of Virginia Commonwealth University, US told MedicalDialogues.in.

It had emerged in earlier clinical trials that omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with an increased risk for atrial fibrillation, the most common rhythm disorder. 

What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of strokes, heart failure and other heart-related complications. According to Mayo Clinic, episodes of atrial fibrillation may come and go, or you may develop atrial fibrillation that doesn’t go away and may require treatment. Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn’t life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that can land the patient into a Heart ICU. Atrial fibrillation can also lead to the development of blood clots within the upper chambers of the heart. These blood clots forming in the heart may circulate to other organs and lead to blocked blood flow (ischemia)  – leading to life-threatening or debilitating strokes.

During atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly — out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. Atrial fibrillation symptoms often include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness.

How was the study involving omega-3 fatty acid supplements carried out?

  1. Five randomised controlled trials were carried out on selected participants.
  2. The purpose was to investigate the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cardiovascular outcomes.
  3. 50,277 patients received fish oils or placebo.
  4. These participants were followed up over 2 and up to 7.4 years.
  5. The dose of fish oil varied from 0.84g to 4g per day.

Findings of the study:

  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are associated with a significantly greater risk of atrial fibrillation in patients at elevated cardiovascular risk.
  • Dr Carbone says that though one clinical trial indicated beneficial cardiovascular effects of supplementation, the risk for atrial fibrillation should be considered when such agents are prescribed or purchased over the counter at a medical supplies shop.
  • The chemist may readily sell this pharmacy (pharmaceutical) item, but if an individual is susceptible to developing heart rhythm disorder, it may put him at risk.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.

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