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Omega-3 Reduces Risk of Pollution-Induced Arrhythmia

Fish oil protects against pollution-induced reduction in heart rate variability.
A new study revealed that consuming fish oil capsules helped prevent the decline in heart rate variability associated with airborne particulate matter. Heart rate variability is a measure of autonomic nervous system regulation of the heart. Greater variability between beats reduces the chance of arrhythmia, heart attack and sudden death. The report was published in the December 15 2005 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Fernando Holguin, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and his associates provided 26 Mexico City nursing home residents over the age of 60 with daily supplements containing two grams fish oil, while 24 residents received two grams soy oil per day for five months. The subjects, who spent 92 percent of their time indoors, were found to be exposed to indoor airborne particles measuring 2.5 microns or less. All participants had a low omega-3 fatty acid intake prior to the beginning of the study. Heart rate variability was assessed on alternative weekdays beginning one month before treatment period through the end of the supplementation period.

Dr Holguin explained the findings: "In this randomized controlled trial, fish oil supplementation prevented the reduction in heart rate variability associated with the same-day exposure to indoor particulate matter. In contrast, soy oil, our comparison supplementation of plant-derived polyunsaturated fatty acids, was associated with a marginal, nonsignificant protection from the effects of particulate matter on heart rate variability."

"Fish oil as a source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids could be considered as a potential form of preventive measure to reduce the risk of arrhythmia and sudden death in elderly subjects exposed to ambient air pollution," he added.


Isabelle Romieu, Martha Maria Téllez-Rojo, Mariana Lazo, Abigail Manzano-Patiño, Marlene Cortez-Lugo, Pierre Julien, Marie Claire Bélanger, Mauricio Hernandez-Avila, and Fernando Holguin. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Prevents Heart Rate Variability Reductions Associated with Particulate Matter. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 2005; 172: 1534-1540. First published online October 6 2005 as doi:10.1164/rccm.200503-372OC

Key concepts: Omega-3 fatty acids, pollution-induced heart rate variability, arrhythmia