The number of people who develop heart arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat affecting millions of people worldwide, could be reduced by supplementing with Omega-3 or eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, according to a recent study.
This study was carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health on over 3,300 adults over 65, over 14 years. The researchers wanted to focus on getting a more accurate measurement of how much fish oil the people actually ingested by taking blood samples.
In the past, researchers had only requested participants to fill out questionnaires about their intake of fish, which wasn’t entirely accurate as according to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the new study;
“Any given fish species can vary in its omega-3s by 10-fold,” Dr. Mozaffarian told Reuters Health.
The new study measured eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – which are all found in oily fish, fish oil supplements and some enriched foods like eggs.
Over the 14 year study, the researchers discovered 789 participants had developed atrial fibrillation (another term for an irregular heartbeat).
Researchers concluded that participants with the top 25 percent omega 3 levels in their bloodstreams at the beginning of the study were about 30 percent less likely to develop a heart arrhythmia, when compared to those people with the bottom 25 blood levels of essential fatty acids.
Dr. Alvaro Alonso, who is a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health who was not even involved in this study, made very positive comments about the findings;
“These are meaningful reductions in risk,” according to Health News.
What this reduction translates to in reality for people is that a 30 percent reduction would mean that instead of 25 people in every 100 people developing a heart arrhythmia, instead only approximately 17 out of the 100 would develop the condition.
DHA Responsible For Positive Results
Dr. Mozaffarian’s research group also pointed out that the high DHA was responsible for the positive results, whilst the EPA and DPA tested for was not linked to reducing the risk.
Alonso believes that this study isn’t enough to prove eating fish is directly responsible for lowering the rate of atrial fibrillation and feels that the fatty acids in fish could work potentially by helping to stabilize the excitability of heart muscle cells, as DHA is highly concentrated in heart muscle cell membranes.
Whatever the reasons for fish oil lowering the risk for people developing an irregular heartbeat, the results should warrant further studies into the effects fish oils have to promote heart health. As if left untreated, atrial fibrillation can eventually lead to stroke and heart failure when a person reaches their 80’s.