A meta-analysis of omega-3 fatty acids and incidence of atrial fibrillation

J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 Feb;31(1):4-13. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2012.10720003.


Objectives: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is associated with higher health care costs. Although omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids have been associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease, their effects on the risk of AF are inconsistent. We therefore sought to review the relation between n-3 fatty acids and the risk of AF.

Methods: Using an extensive online search, we conducted a meta-analysis of new onset incident/recurrent AF following exposure to fish/fish oil or long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. A random-effect model was used and between-studies heterogeneity was estimated with I(2). The quality of studies was assessed using Jadad and United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) scoring systems. All analyses were performed with RevMan (version 5.0.20).

Results: Seven cohort studies and 11 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included in this meta-analysis. The pooled odds ratio (OR) was 0.79 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.56-1.12; p = 0.19) for RCTs and 0.83 (95% CI = 0.59-1.16; p = 0.27) for cohort studies. On sensitivity analysis, no statistically significant difference was noted when stratified by study design or quality of the studies (as graded by Jadad or USPSTF scoring systems).

Conclusion: This study does not suggest a major effect of fish/fish oil or n-3 fatty acids on the risk of AF.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / drug therapy*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • United States


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils