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Fighting Pollution-Linked
Heart Trouble With Fish Oil


Fish oil may help counter air pollution-linked changes in heart function, a new study suggests.

Pollution exposure can affect heart rate variability, a measure of the autonomic nervous system's regulation of the heart. Heart rate variability is an independent risk factor for cardiac arrhythmias, heart attack and sudden death.

But a study in the December issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has found that a daily two-gram fish oil supplement prevented a decline in heart rate variability in 26 elderly people, aged 81 to 83.

The study participants, all residents of a Mexico City nursing home, took the fish oil supplements for six months. A control group of 24 nursing home residents took soy oil supplements.

"In this randomized, controlled trial, fish oil supplementation prevented the reduction in heart rate variability associated with the same-day exposure to indoor particulate matter," researcher Dr. Fernando Holguin of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a prepared statement.

"In contrast, soy oil, our comparison supplementation of plant-derived polyunsaturated fatty acids, was associated with a marginal, nonsignificant protection from the effects of particulate matter on heart rate variability," Holguin said.

He and his colleagues said larger studies are needed to confirm their results.

"Fish oil as a source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids could be considered as a potential form of preventive measure to reduce the risk of arrhythmia and sudden death in elderly subjects exposed to ambient air pollution," Holguin said.

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