Do omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce risk of sudden cardiac death and ventricular arrhythmias? A meta-analysis of randomized trials

Heart Lung. 2013 Jul-Aug;42(4):251-6. doi: 10.1016/j.hrtlng.2013.03.006. Epub 2013 May 25.


Introduction: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have demonstrated to have antiarrhythmic properties. However, randomized studies have shown inconsistent results.

Objective: We aimed to analyze the effect of omega-3 PUFA on preventing potentially fatal ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

Methods: Randomized trials comparing omega-3 PUFA to placebo and reporting sudden cardiac death (SCD) or first implanted cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) event for ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation were included in this study. A meta-analysis using a random effects model was performed and results were expressed in terms of Odds Ratio (OR) and 95% Confidence Interval (CI) after evaluating for interstudy heterogeneity using I(2). The reported data were extracted on the basis of the intention-to-treat principle.

Results: A total of 32,919 patients were included in nine trials; 16,465 patients received omega-3 PUFA and 16,454 received placebo. When comparing omega-3 PUFA to placebo, there was nonsignificant risk reduction of SCD or ventricular arrhythmias (OR = 0.82 [95% CI: 0.60-1.21], p = 0.21 I(2) = 49.7%).

Conclusion: Dietary supplementation with omega-3 PUFA does not affect the risk of SCD or ventricular arrhythmias.

Keywords: Arrhythmias; Dietary supplements; Fish oil; Sudden cardiac death.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Defibrillators, Implantable
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / drug therapy*
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / drug therapy


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3