Background: Results of observational and experimental studies investigating the association between intake of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) have been inconsistent.
Methods: We studied the association of fish and the fish-derived n-3 PUFAs eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with the risk of incident AF in individuals aged 45-64 from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) cohort (n = 14,222, 27% African Americans). Intake of fish and of DHA and EPA were measured via food frequency questionnaire. Plasma levels of DHA and EPA were measured in phospholipids in a subset of participants (n = 3,757). Incident AF was identified through the end of 2008 using ECGs, hospital discharge codes and death certificates. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to estimate hazard ratios of AF by quartiles of n-3 PUFAs or by fish intake.
Results: During the average follow-up of 17.6 years, 1,604 AF events were identified. In multivariable analyses, total fish intake and dietary DHA and EPA were not associated with AF risk. Higher intake of oily fish and canned tuna was associated with a nonsignificant lower risk of AF (p for trend = 0.09). Phospholipid levels of DHA+EPA were not related to incident AF. However, DHA and EPA showed differential associations with AF risk when analyzed separately, with lower risk of AF in those with higher levels of DHA but no association between EPA levels and AF risk.
Conclusions: In this racially diverse sample, dietary intake of fish and fish-derived n-3 fatty acids, as well as plasma biomarkers of fish intake, were not associated with AF risk.