Researchers say that older people who take a daily fish or soy oil supplement can reduce their risk of developing irregular heart rhythm or sudden cardiac death.
Taking the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish and soy oil each day increases heart rate variability, a measure of heart-healthiness and improvements in heart function can be seen in a short time, as little as 2 weeks.
Dr. Fernando Holguin, at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and colleagues, monitored 52 people aged 60 or older who were randomly chosen to take a 1-gram capsule of one of the oil supplements twice a day for 6 months.
The participants had their heart rate variability measured every other day.
The team found an increased average total variability from 3.26 units prior to supplementation to 3.54 in those on the fish oil and with those on the soy oil, an increased measure from 3.16 to 3.28.
Some of the participants did experience some side-effects with the supplements, 41 percent in the fish oil group and 16 percent in the soy oil group reported belching and corresponding rates for nausea were 12.5 percent and 8 percent.
Holguin and his team recommend that, used in conjunction with other factors known to increase heart rate variability such as exercise, weight loss, stress reduction, and restoration of normal sleep, omega-3 fatty acids supplements derived from either soy oil or fish oil can improve heart health.
The study is published in the April 2005 medical journal Chest.