Heart DiseaseOmega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and the incidence of arrhythmias and fatal heart attack

Researchers in Netherlands studied high-risk patients with a previous myocardial infarction and diabetes.

First, the details.

  • 1,014 adult patients with diabetes and a history of having a heart attack were randomly assigned to receive 1 of 4 margarines for 41 months.
  • The margarines contained different combinations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
    • ALA
    • EPA-DHA
    • EPA-DHA + ALA
    • Placebo
  • The groups did not differ significantly, regarding use of blood thinner and blood pressure medications, lipid-lowering drugs, and antidiabetic drugs.

And, the results.

  • The patients consumed on average 19 grams of margarine per day.
  • 29 patients developed a ventricular arrhythmia, 2 died suddenly, 1 had a nonfatal cardiac arrest, 11 had a fatal cardiac arrest, and 15 had a cardioverter defibrillator implanted.
  • Eating the omega-3 margarine resulted in an additional intake of 223 mg EPA plus 149 mg DHA and/or 2 grams ALA.
  • After adjusting for age, gender, and current smoking, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced ventricular arrhythmia: 1% vs 6% for placebo — a significant difference.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids also helped reduce other cardiovascular events.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation did not make a significant difference for fatal heart attack.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Low-dose supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids exerts a protective effect against ventricular arrhythmia–related events in post-heart attack patients with diabetes.”

It’s important to remember that these patients all had a history of myocardial infarction. Therefore, it isn’t known if the results apply to people who never had a heart attack.

Also, although more than a thousand patients started the study, only a small number had an arrhythmia, heart attack or related event. And the findings are based on this small sample.

12/23/11 20:32 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.