Rat diets high in fish oil have been shown to be protective against ischemia-induced fatal ventricular arrhythmias. Increasing evidence suggests that this may also apply to humans.
To confirm the evidence in animals, we tested a concentrate of the free fish-oil fatty acids and found them to be antiarrhythmic.
In this study, we tested the pure free fatty acids of the 2 major dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish oil: cis-5,8,11,14, 17-eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5omega-3) and cis-4,7,10,13,16, 19-docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6omega-3), and the parent omega-3 fatty acid in some vegetable oils, cis-9,12,15-alpha-linolenic acid (C18:3omega-3), administered intravenously on albumin or a phospholipid emulsion.
The tests were performed in a dog model of cardiac sudden death. Dogs were prepared with a large anterior wall myocardial infarction produced surgically and an inflatable cuff placed around the left circumflex coronary artery. With the dogs running on a treadmill 1 month after the surgery, occlusion of the left circumflex artery regularly produced ventricular fibrillation in the control tests done 1 week before and after the test, with the omega-3 fatty acids administered intravenously as their pure free fatty acid.
With infusion of the eicosapentaenoic acid, 5 of 7 dogs were protected from fatal ventricular arrhythmias (P<0.02). With docosahexaenoic acid, 6 of 8 dogs were protected, and with alpha-linolenic acid, 6 of 8 dogs were also protected (P<0.004 for each). The before and after control studies performed on the same animal all resulted in fatal ventricular arrhythmias, from which they were defibrillated. These results indicate that purified omega-3 fatty acids can prevent ischemia-induced ventricular fibrillation in this dog model of sudden cardiac death.