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Omega-3 Fatty Acid Promotes Regular Heart Rhythm

Omega-3 fatty acid contained in fish and soy oil increase a measure of heart-healthiness called heart rate variability, a small study indicates. Taking a daily fish or soy oil supplement may therefore reduce the risk of developing irregular heart rhythm or succumbing to sudden cardiac death.

Lead investigator Dr. Fernando Holguin, at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia and colleagues followed 52 people aged 60 or older who were randomly assigned to take one of the Omrga-3 oil supplements, given as 1-gram capsules twice daily for 6 months. The heart rate variability of the participants was measured every other day.

As the team reports in the medical journal Chest, fish oil supplementation increased average total variability from 3.26 units prior to supplementation to 3.54 afterwards. Soy oil increased the measure from 3.16 to 3.28. "Our study group showed improvements in heart function in as little as 2 weeks," Dr. Holguin commented in a press release.

Some participants reported discomfort with the supplements. Belching was reported by 41 percent in the fish oil group and 16 percent in the soy oil group. Corresponding rates for nausea were 12.5 percent and 8 percent.

Holguin's group recommends omega-3 fatty acids supplements derived from either soy oil or fish oil "in conjunction with other factors known to increase heart rate variability such as exercise, weight loss, stress reduction, and restoration of normal sleep" to improve heart health. Taking a high-quality fish oil supplement will decrease the incidence of rancidity which causes the bad taste.


Chest, April 2005.

Key concepts: omega-3 fish oil, heart rhythm