Some, but not all, large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effects of marine omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on cardiovascular outcomes have reported increased risks of atrial fibrillation (AF). The potential reasons for disparate findings may be dose related.
Methods: The MEDLINE and Embase databases were searched for articles and abstracts published between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2020 in addition to a meta-analysis of large cardiovascular RCTs published in 2019. RCTs of cardiovascular outcomes of marine omega-3 fatty acids that reported results for AF, either as pre-specified outcome, adverse event, or a cause for hospitalization, with a minimum sample size of 500 patients and a median followup of at least one year were included. RCTs specifically examining shorter term effects of omega-3 fatty acids on recurrent AF in patients with established AF or post-operative AF were not included. The hazard ratio (HR) for the reported AF outcomes within each trial was metaanalyzed using random-effects model with Knapp-Hartung adjustment and evaluated a doseresponse relationship with a meta-regression model.
Results: Of 4049 screened records, seven studies were included in the meta-analysis. Of those, five were already detected in a previous meta-analysis of cardiovascular RCTs. Among the 81,210 patients from 7 trials, 58,939 (72.6%) were enrolled in trials testing ≤1gram per day (g/d) and 22,271 (27.4%) in trials testing >1g/d of omega-3 fatty acids. The mean age was 65 years and 31,842 (39%) were female. The weighted average follow-up was 4.9 years. In meta-analysis, the use of marine omega-3 fatty acid supplements was associated with an increased risk of AF (n=2,905; HR 1.25, 95%CI 1.07-1.46, P=0.013). In analyses stratified by dose, the HR was greater in the trials testing >1g/d (HR 1.49, 95%CI 1.04-2.15, P=0.042) as compared with those testing ≤1 g/d (HR 1.12, 95%CI 1.03-1.22, P=0.024, P for interaction<0.001). In metaregression, the HR for AF increased per 1 gr increase of omega-3 fatty acids dosage (HR 1.11, 95%CI 1.06-1.15, P=0.001).
Conclusions: In RCTs examining cardiovascular outcomes, marine omega-3 supplementation was associated with an increased risk of AF. The risk appeared to be greater in trials testing >1g/d.