By Ernie Mundell
FRIDAY, November 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Millions of people take a fish oil or vitamin D supplement in hopes of staving off a variety of diseases. However, a new study shows that the nutrients do not protect against the common and potential heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation.
“A-fib” affects approximately 2.7 million Americans and can lead to complications such as blood clots, stroke, and even heart failure. The risk of a-fib increases with age, high blood pressure, and heavy alcohol consumption, and may be more common in some families.
The study results “do not support the use of marine omega-3s or vitamin D to prevent atrial fibrillation,” said lead author Dr. Christine Albert. She is a founding professor in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
On the other hand, “the results give assurance that these supplements do not increase the overall risk of atrial fibrillation and appear generally safe for patients taking these supplements for other reasons,” Albert said in a press release from the American Heart Association.
Her team presented the results today at this year’s virtual AHA annual meeting.
According to investigators, previous research has not provided clear answers on the benefits or harms of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids in relation to a-fib.
This five-year study enrolled more than 25,000 adults, 50 and older, with no history of a-fib. It should be determined whether a vitamin D3 supplement of 2000 IU / day or 840 mg / day omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of developing irregular heartbeats.
During the study, a total of 3.6% of participants developed a-fib. However, there was no statistically significant difference in the risk of a-fib between those taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements and / or vitamin D3 supplements and those taking a placebo.
Dr. Mitchell Weinberg holds the Chair of Cardiology at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. He was not involved in the new research but said the results were “a little surprise”.
Weinberg believes that many people place too much hope in the power of dietary supplements to improve their health.
“The idea that taking more vitamins will make your life longer or provide significant additional health benefits is very attractive to health-conscious patients,” he said.
But “while a variety of benefits have been attributed to these two supplements, the scientific evidence is not strong enough to support routine high-dose supplementation,” added Weinberg.
“While vitamin D is important for bone health, the claim that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes is not very convincing,” he said. “Similarly, the beliefs that omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides, reduce inflammation, and decrease mood-related disorders are without sufficient evidence.”
Weinberg’s advice: “For now, patients should focus on eating healthy, exercising regularly, and consistently seeing a doctor.”
Since the new results were presented at a medical meeting, they should be considered tentative until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more information on a-fib, visit the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Mitchell D. Weinberg, MD, Chairman, Department of Cardiology, Staten Island University Hospital, New York City; American Heart Association, press release, Nov. 13, 2020