The Current Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Management of Atrial Fibrillation

Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Sep 22;16(9):22870-87. doi: 10.3390/ijms160922870.


Background: The main dietary source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) is fish, which contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In the present manuscript, we aimed to review the current evidence regarding the clinical role of n-3 PUFA in the prevention of atrial fibrillation (AF) and the possible underlying mechanisms.

Methods: A literature search based on PubMed listings was performed using "Omega-3 fatty acids" and "atrial fibrilation" as key search terms.

Results: n-3 PUFA have been shown to attenuate structural atrial remodeling, prolong atrial effective refractory period through the prevention of reentry and suppress ectopic firing from pulmonary veins. Dietary fish intake has been found to have no effect on the incidence of AF in the majority of studies. Circulating DHA has been consistently reported to be inversely associated with AF risk, whereas EPA has no such effect. The majority of studies investigating the impact of n-3 PUFA supplementation on the incidence of AF following cardiac surgery reported no benefit, though most of them did not use n-3 PUFA pretreatment for adequate duration. Studies using adequate four-week pretreatment with n-3 PUFA before cardioversion of AF showed a reduction of the AF incidence.

Conclusions: Although n-3 PUFA have antiarrhythmogenic properties, their clinical efficacy on the prevention of AF is not consistently supported. Further well-designed studies are needed to overcome the limitations of the existing studies and provide robust conclusions.

Keywords: arrhythmia; atrial fibrillation; cardiac surgery; cardioversion; docosahexaenoic acid; eicosapentaenoic acid; fish oil; omega-3 fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements* / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Humans


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3