Electrophysiological mechanisms of the anti-arrhythmic effects of omega-3 fatty acids

Eric S. Richardson, Paul A. Iaizzo, Yong Fu Xiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Heart rhythm disorders, or arrhythmias, are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω3PUFAs), commonly found in fish oils and plant seeds, have recently emerged as potential anti-arrhythmic agents. The purpose of this review is to summarize the electrophysiological basis of the anti-arrhythmic properties of ω3PUFAs from clinical, animal, and cellular research. Evidence of the anti-arrhythmic effects of ω3PUFAs originated from epidemiological studies that correlated a low incidence of sudden cardiac death with high dietary ω3PUFA intake. Subsequently, multiple clinical trials have confirmed the therapeutic effects of ω3PUFAs in preventing sudden cardiac death and multiple other arrhythmia-related disorders. This has led basic scientists to investigate the effects of ω3PUFAs on several ion channels including sodium, potassium, and calcium channels, as well as Na/Ca exchangers. Therefore, ω3PUFAs may hold promise as safe and effective anti-arrhythmic agents. Nevertheless, further research is needed in areas such as: (1) identifying which form(s) of ω3PUFAs (i.e., phospholipid, triglyceride, or free) is (are) responsible for anti-arrhythmic actions; and (2) developing reproducible methods for delivery so that the appropriate form and concentration may be present at the target site to prevent and treat arrhythmias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-52
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of cardiovascular translational research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We acknowledge funding from the GAANN (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need) Program, US Department of Education; the Institute for Engineering in Medicine at the University of Minnesota; and the Qwest Program of Medtronic, Inc.


  • Anti-arrhythmic agent
  • Heart rhythm disorder
  • Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Sudden cardiac death


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