Fish Oil May Save Hemodialysis Patients From Sudden Death

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

A new study by Indiana University recently discovered that fish oil could help hemodialysis patients to avoid sudden cardiac death.

Researchers believe that this is one of the first studies to examine the possible advantages of fish oil for individuals on hemodialysis who are at a high risk of having sudden cardiac death.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, sudden cardiac death is the loss of heart function and also known as sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac death usually results from an electrical disturbance in the heart that stops the pumping action of the organ, limiting blood flow to the rest of the body. Sudden cardiac arrest often results in the loss of consciousness, breathing and heart function, and can lead to death in just minutes.

The recent study included data from 100 patients who passed away due to sudden cardiac death during their first year of hemodialysis as well as 300 patients who survived.

“We found that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of patients who were just starting hemodialysis were very strongly associated with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death over the first year of their treatment,” explained the study´s first author Dr. Allon Friedman, an associate professor of nephrology at Indiana University School of Medicine, in statement.

The team of investigators explained how the first-year survival rate for patients who are on hemodialysis is 35 percent, with a higher risk of death during the first few months that follow the start of treatment.

“The risk of sudden cardiac death in hemodialysis patients is highest during the first year of treatment. The annual rate of sudden cardiac death is about 6 to 7 percent, which may even exceed the rate in patients with heart failure,” explained Friedman. “This study is a first step toward identifying a possible treatment for sudden cardiac death in dialysis patients.”

Sudden cardiac death causes one out of every four deaths for individuals undergoing hemodialysis, making it the leading cause of death for this subgroup of patients.

“Because omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from certain foods, such as fish oil, our findings also have important implications for the type of diet we recommend to patients on dialysis,” concluded Friedman in the statement.

According to the Mayo Clinic, fish oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acids that can also help slow the hardening of arteries, decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. The findings of the Indiana University study are similar to results found in other studies. In particular, scientists at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU) recently completed a meta-analysis of varying studies on fish oil. They wanted to better understand the data that supported and did not support the use of fish oil. Even after reviewing a variety of often conflicting data, the investigators concluded that fish oil does, in fact, have a number of health benefits.

“After decades of studying omega-3 fatty acids, it´s clear that they have value in primary prevention of heart disease,” commented Donald Jump, who serves as a principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute and professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

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