Popular omega-3 supplements may spike AFib risk in some people

Omega-3 supplements, which are available both over-the-counter and in higher strengths as prescription medication, may put certain people at increased risk of a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation (AFib). That's according to new research published by the European Society of Cardiology; it involved an analysis of several existing studies.

Omega-3 supplements, which often come in the form of fish oil capsules or refined omega-3s, are commonly taken for their various health benefits. Many studies have linked fish consumption and omega-3 fatty acids with cardiovascular benefits including, potentially, a reduction in triglyceride levels.

Some trials involving the substance have found a possible link between omega-3 supplements and an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation, however, which puts that individual at a much greater chance of stroke. This new study, which was led by Virginia Commonwealth University, involved a meta-analysis of these controlled trials.

Based on five randomized controlled trials, the latest research found that people who are at 'elevated cardiovascular risk' are also at 'significantly greater risk' of developing atrial fibrillation in association with taking omega-3 supplements compared to others. However, one of the trials also linked the supplements with cardiovascular benefits.

Dr. Salvatore Carbone, the study's author, notes that one's existing susceptibility to developing AFib should be kept in mind when considering the use of omega-3 supplements:

Currently, fish oil supplements are indicated for patients with elevated plasma triglycerides to reduce cardiovascular risk. Due to the high prevalence of elevated triglycerides in the population, they can be commonly prescribed [...] Our study suggests that fish oil supplements are associated with a significantly greater risk of atrial fibrillation in patients at elevated cardiovascular risk.