Fish Oil May Not Help the Heart

Fish oil after heart surgery did not reduce risk of atrial fibrillation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Fish oil supplements are thought to offer various health benefits. But can they reduce the risk of a common complication after heart surgery?

Apparently not. A recent study found that fish oil supplements don't reduce risk of atrial fibrillation after heart surgery.

Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, which past research has shown might help reduce the risk of an irregular heart beat.

"Ask your cardiologist about your treatment."

The study, led by Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, PhD, from the Harvard School of Public Health, aimed to find out whether giving patients a fish oil supplement before and after cardiac surgery could reduce the risk of the patient getting atrial fibrillation afterward.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart beat that occurs in about one-third of all patients undergoing heart surgery. It lead to other complications after the surgery.

The researchers recruited 1,516 patients, average age 64, who were undergoing cardiac surgery in the US, Italy and Argentina. Half the patients were given 10 one-gram capsules of fish oil that contained at least 840 mg of omega-3 fatty acids for the three to five days leading up to their surgery.

Then they were given two grams a day until they were discharged or until the tenth day after surgery. Meanwhile, the other half were given a placebo (fake pill). After the surgery, 233 patients (30.7 percent) who were in the placebo group had atrial fibrillation symptoms, compared to 227 patients (30 percent) in the fish oil group.

When the researchers looked at other measurements related to atrial fibrillation symptoms between the two groups, they still found no differences.

The authors therefore concluded that the fish oil supplements did not reduce the risk of getting atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery.

The study was published November 19 in JAMA. The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institutes of Health, GlaxoSmithKlin, Sigma Tau and Pronova BioPharma, which provided the fish oil capsules. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 20, 2012
Last Updated:
April 25, 2013