Fish oil doesn’t prevent irregular heartbeat in cardiac surgery patients

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A new study led by HSPH’s Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, finds that fish oil capsules with omega-3 fatty acids failed to prevent the onset of atrial fibrillation, a heart arrhythmia that often follows cardiac surgery and increases patients’ risk for stroke.

The study analyzed health outcomes from an international trial of more than 1,500 patients. Findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association on November 5, 2012, and simultaneously published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The authors stated in a November 5, 2012 article in US News & World Report that the findings do not mean that omega-3 fatty acids have no helpful effect on the heart. Fish oil was shown to help decrease post-operative bleeding in cardiac patients, Mozaffarian said, and long-term benefits have been demonstrated. “If you put together all of the observational studies and all of the trials, I think there’s evidence that some fish or fish oil intake compared to none reduces death from heart disease,” Mozaffarian said.