Abstracted by Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, March 13, 2012, from “Association of Plasma Phospholipid Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids With Incident Atrial Fibrillation in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study” in the March 6, 2012 issue of Circulation. Omega 3 reduced irregular heartbeat by 29%. Posted July 9, 2012. r/km
Atrial Fillibration is the most common chronic irregular heartbeat condition in adults (1) Its increased incidence in the United States is thought to be due to the continued increase in obesity and diabetes mellitus (2). Because the elderly population in the U.S. continues to increase, atrial fibrillation is expected to afflict 7.5 million Americans by 2050 (3) It has even been labeled “an emerging epidemic” in other developed countries like The United Kingdom (4). Because of its association with fatigue and reduced exercise tolerance, atrial fibrillation is also associated with a higher risk for stroke, dementia, heart failure, and total mortality (5).
Now a new study (6) suggests that increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help with irregular heartbeat. In the study, researchers measured blood levels of three omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) and in 3,326 US men and women over 65 years of age and without any atrial fibrillation or heart failure. The patients were then followed up for the next 14 years (1992-2006), when 789 cases of atrial fibrillation were diagnosed.
By the end of the follow-up period, both total omega-3 fatty acid levels and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) levels showed a benefit for atrial fibrillation. Specifically, those with the highest 25% of total omega-3 fats levels had a 29% reduced risk of atrial fibrillation compared to those with the lowest 25% levels of the omega-3 fats (p < 0.001). When looking at DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) levels, those in the highest 25% levels had a 23% reduced risk of atrial fibrillation compared to those in the lowest 25% levels (14.37 vs. 1.98% of blood fat content, p = 0.01). No benefits were seen with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) levels for atrial fibrillations.
The researchers attributed omega-3 fats’ heart health benefits to their ability to helping maintain a healthy blood pressure (7), decrease heart rate (8), improve overall heart function (9) and possible anti-inflammatory effects (10). They went to conclude that “higher circulating total long-chain omega-3 fats and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) levels were associated with lower risk of atrial fibrillation in older adults.”
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