While previous research showed strong evidence that omega-3 help heart health, this common supplement might also carry a big risk for some folks.
According to a new study from the European Society of Cardiology, omega-3 daily supplements are linked with a higher risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib) in patients with higher triglyceride levels.
Triglycerides are a form of fat found in your blood.
“Fish oil supplements are currently given to people with higher plasma triglycerides to lower cardiovascular risk,” researcher Salvatore Carbone, PhD, said in a comment.
“Due to the high amount of cases of elevated triglycerides in the population, these supplements are commonly recommended,” he added.
The new study analyzed five controlled trials and tried to find the effects of omega-3 supplementation on cardiovascular health.
The researchers discovered that omega-3 supplementation was linked with significantly increased rates of AFib compared to a placebo.
“Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm, caused by irregular electrical activity in the heart’s top chamber, and the left atrium,” Dr. Michael Goyfman, cardiologist in New York, said.
“While some might feel palpitations when they have atrial fibrillation, others might experience no symptoms,” he said.
Goyfman said the main concern with AFib is stroke, in which a blood clot might form inside the heart and then break off and go to the lungs or brain.
“To decrease this danger, blood thinners are given to people with AFib,” Goyfman said.
He confirmed that for healthy patients who consume omega-3s within their healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, “the rate of heart events was greatly lowered.”
And when asked whether the benefits of omega-3s for healthy people outweighed their risks, Dr. Laurence Epstein, director of electrophysiology at Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in New York, said it was “unclear.”
“This is a controversial issue and it’s why the study was done,” Epstein said. “Some have said that they can decrease the risk of coronary artery disease by changing lipids like triglycerides. Others say that they can decrease the risk of heart rhythm problems.”
Epstein stressed the importance of informing your doctor of the supplements you are taking.
“It is critical that people tell their doctors about all their supplements,” he said. “This research proves that if you have atrial fibrillation, maybe you should avoid fish oils.”