Omega-3 supplements, which are available both over-the-counter and in higher strengths than prescription drugs, can put certain people at an increased risk of a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation (AFib). This emerges from new research published by the European Society of Cardiology. It included an analysis of several existing studies.
Omega-3 supplements, often in the form of fish oil capsules or refined omega-3 fatty acids, are commonly taken for their various health benefits. Many studies have linked fish consumption and omega-3 fatty acids to cardiovascular benefits, including possible reductions in triglyceride levels.
However, some studies of the substance have found a possible link between omega-3 supplements and an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, making this person much more likely to have a stroke. This new study, led by Virginia Commonwealth University, included a meta-analysis of these controlled studies.
Based on five randomized controlled trials, the latest study found that people with an “increased cardiovascular risk” had a “significantly higher risk” than other people of developing atrial fibrillation associated with taking omega-3 supplements. However, in one of the studies, the supplements were also linked to cardiovascular benefits.
Dr. Salvatore Carbone, the study’s author, notes that the existing vulnerability to developing AFib should be taken into account when considering omega-3 supplement use:
Currently, fish oil supplements are indicated for patients with elevated plasma triglycerides to reduce cardiovascular risk. Due to the high prevalence of elevated triglycerides in the population, they can often be prescribed […] Our study suggests that fish oil supplements are associated with a significantly higher risk of atrial fibrillation in patients at increased cardiovascular risk.