Why people at risk of heart disease may want to avoid fish oil

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New research finds that taking omega-3 supplements is as sociated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation in people with a high risk of, or existing, heart disease.

Experts say the relationship between using omega-3 supplements and heart health is complicated.

Talk with your doctor about your risks and what is best for you. While previous researchTrusted Source found strong evidence that omega-3 fatty acids benefit heart health, this popular supplement may also carry a significant risk for some people.

According to a new analysis by the European Society of Cardiology, omega-3 fatty acid supplements are associated with an increased likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation (AFib) in people with high triglyceride levels.

“Currently, fish oil supplements are indicated for patients with elevated plasma triglycerides to reduce cardiovascular risk,” study author Salvatore Carbone, PhD, of Virginia Commonwealth University said in a statement.

“Due to the high prevalence of elevated triglycerides in the population, they can be commonly prescribed,” he added.

The new analysis looked at five randomized controlled trials and investigated the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cardiovascular outcomes. Study participants had high triglyceride levels.

They were at elevated risk of cardiovascular disease or had already received a diagnosis of it.

More than 50,000 participants were given fish oils (a source of omega-3s) or a placebo.

Researchers followed them up for up to 7.4 years. The dosage of fish oil was between 0.84 grams and 4 grams daily.

Researchers found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation was associated with significantly increased risks of AFib compared with a placebo.

“Atrial fibrillation is an arrhythmia, abnormal heart rhythm, characterized by irregular electrical activity in the top chamber of the heart, the left atrium,” Dr. Michael Goyfman, director of clinical cardiology at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in New York, told Healthline.

“While some people may feel [heart] palpitations in the setting of atrial fibrillation, others have no symptoms,” he said.

Goyfman added that the main concern with AFib is the risk of a stroke or other thromboembolic eventTrusted Source, in which a blood clot may form in the heart and then break off and travel to the brain or other organs.