Beneficial Effect of EPA/DHA Supplementation on Resting Heart Rate

February 12, 2018


Effect of Omega-3 Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation on Heart Rate: a Meta-analysis of Randomized Control Trials
Hidayat , K. et al., European J. of Clinical Nutrition, in press, 2017
Dept. of Nutrition and Food Hygiene, School of Public Health, Soochow Univ., Suzhou, China


General population studies have shown that higher resting heart rates represent an independent risk factor for several cardiovascular events (including myocardial infarction and cardiovascular death). The present review (meta-analysis) studied 51 clinical trials wherein the effect of the regular consumption of omega-3 supplements containing EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and/or DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) for 2 weeks or more on the resting heart rate was evaluated.

Relative to placebo supplementation (control devoid of EPA/DHA), a significant overall reduction in the resting heart rate (HR) by 2.23 beats per minute (bpm) was found. When EPA was given separate from DHA and vice-versa, the modest HR reduction was associated with DHA but not EPA supplements. The authors concluded, from this meta-analysis, that strong clinical evidence was forthcoming for heart rate reduction with omega-3 supplements containing EPA plus DHA and with DHA when administered alone.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

In view of the overall conclusions from the present review, the reduction in resting heart rate with such omega-3 supplementation is likely to have important public health implications in lowering the risk of sudden cardiac death. In our study as referred to in the present review (Stark, K. and Holub, B., Am. J. Clinical Nutr., 79: 765-773 (2004)) , we found a 7 % lowering in resting heart rate (average of 4.8 bpm) within 4 weeks when supplementing post-menopausal women with 2.8 grams DHA/day. Based on the relation between the degree of HR-lowering and sudden cardiac death risk (J. Am. College Nutr., 48: 478-484 (2006)), such a DHA-induced decrease in the resting HR would approximately correspond to a 11 % lower risk for sudden cardiac death.

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