Omega-3 fats may lower risk of irregular heart rhythm

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Scientists from Aalborg University Hospital and elsewhere found that intake of omega-3 fats may lower the risk of irregular heart rhythm.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular, often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow.

The heart’s upper chambers (atria) beat out of coordination with the lower chambers (ventricles).

This condition may have no symptoms, but when symptoms do appear they include palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

Treatments include drugs, electrical shock (cardioversion), and minimally invasive surgery (ablation).

Omega-3 fatty acids (also called omega-3 fats and n-3 fats) are essential fats—the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food.

Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.

Omega-3 fats are a key family of polyunsaturated fats. There are three main omega-3s:

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) come mainly from fish, so they are sometimes called marine omega-3s.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most common omega-3 fatty acid in most Western diets.

It is found in vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and some animal fat, especially in grass-fed animals.

In the current study, researchers aimed to examine the link between the content of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and the risk of AF.

They used data from the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health cohort, in which a total of 5255 cases of AF were found during 16.9 years of follow-up.

The team found data were available for 4741 incident cases of AF (2920 men and 1821 women).

Participants with the highest intake of EPA experienced a 45% lower risk of AF compared with people with the lowest intake.

For DHA, no clear association was found in men, whereas in women, participants with the highest intake of DHA had a 30% lower risk of incident AF compared to participants with the lowest intake.

Based on the findings, researchers found EPA intake is linked to lower risks of AF in both men and women.

The intake of DHA is inversely associated with the risk of AF in women, whereas no clear association in men.

The research was published in The European Journal of Clinical Investigation and conducted by Thomas Andersen Rix et al.

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