Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish such as salmon and albacore tuna, had showed some promise in preventing heart disease in earlier trials. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is common, yet there remains an unmet medical need for additional treatment options. Current treatments have limited efficacy and significant adverse events. Limited data from small trials suggest omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may provide a safe, effective treatment option for AF patients.
Of the total 663 outpatient participants followed by the researchers, 542 had paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, which appears suddenly and resolves on its own, and 121 had persistent atrial fibrillation, which needs treatment. Participants were randomised to receive either a placebo or 8 grams of omega-3 supplements daily for the first week, followed by 4 grams a day for the remaining 23 weeks of the trial.
At the end of six months, 46 percent of those in the placebo group and 52 percent of those taking omega-3 supplements experienced recurrences. The numbers of paroxysmal AF patients in the placebo and treatment groups who had AF recurrences were about equal (48 percent and 52 percent, respectively). In patients with persistent AF, more patients in the omega-3 arm had recurrences than in the placebo group (50 percent and 33 percent, respectively).
The findings show that there is no practical definitive benefit of having omega-3 fatty acids for those suffering from AF. But the researchers have not ruled out a possible role for omega-3 in other types of patients, such as those with heart failure.