AALBORG, DENMARK. Research has shown that heart attack survivors who increase their intake of oily fish considerably improve their chance of long-term survival. Now Danish researchers report that daily supplementation with fish oil capsules may have a similar effect.
Their experiment involved 49 patients who had been discharged from hospital after suffering a heart attack. The study participants were randomly allocated to receive 5 grams per day of fish oil as a mixture of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid or a similar amount of olive oil as a placebo for a 12-week period. A 24-hour recording (Holter) of their heart rate was obtained at the start and end of the study. At the end of the experiment the patients in the fish oil group exhibited a marked increase in the variability of their heart rate as compared to the controls. It is believed that greater heart rate variability is desirable in heart attack patients as it protects the heart against often fatal ventricular arrhythmias. The researchers conclude that fish oils may have an antiarrhythmic effect which could account for the better survival among heart attack patients who increase their intake of them.
Christensen, Jeppe Hagstrup, et al. Effect of fish oil on heart rate variability in survivors of myocardial infarction. British Medical Journal, Vol. 312, March 16, 1996, pp. 677-78