MONDAY, Dec. 19, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Fish oil may help counter air pollution-linked changes in heart function, a new study suggests.
Pollution exposure can affect heart rate variability, a measure of the autonomic nervous system's regulation of the heart. Heart rate variability is an independent risk factor for cardiac arrhythmias, heart attack and sudden death.
But a study in the December issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has found that a daily two-gram fish oil supplement prevented a decline in heart rate variability in 26 elderly people, aged 81 to 83.
The study participants, all residents of a Mexico City nursing home, took the fish oil supplements for six months. A control group of 24 nursing home residents took soy oil supplements.
"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," researcher Dr. Fernando Holguin of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a prepared statement.
"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," Holguin said.
He and his colleagues said larger studies are needed to confirm their results.
"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," Holguin said.
The Heart Rhythm Society has more about arrhythmias.