Could Fish Oil Save The Lives Of Dialysis Patients?

You know by now that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to your heart health, but is this still the case for people on haemodialysis, whose wellbeing is the most at risk for sudden cardiac death? A study has emerged, published in the journal Kidney International, which is the first to examine this question.

According to Allon N. Friedman, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the Indiana University School of Medicine and first author of the study, the findings are impressive enough that a placebo-controlled clinical study is warranted to confirm the results: ‘We found that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of patients who were just starting haemodialysis were very strongly associated with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death over the first year of their treatment.’

The study included 100 patients who died of sudden cardiac death during their first year of haemodialysis and 300 patients who survived. Other researchers involved in the research are Zhangsheng Yu, Rebeka Tabbey and Cheryl Denski from the Indiana University Department of Biostatistics; Hector Tamez, Julia Wenger and Ravi Thadhani from the Division of Nephrology at Massachusetts General Hospital; and Yong Li and Bruce A. Watkins with the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Lipid Chemistry and Molecular Biology Laboratory at the University of Connecticut.

There is a 35% five-year survival rate for patients on haemodialysis, and the highest risk of death occurs in the first few months of starting treatment. Sudden cardiac death is the most common cause of death in these patients, and accounts for about one out of every four deaths. Friedman said, ‘The risk of sudden cardiac death in haemodialysis patients is highest during the first year of treatment. The annual rate of sudden cardiac death is about six to seven percent, which may even exceed the rate in patients with heart failure.

‘This study is a first step toward identifying a possible treatment for sudden cardiac death in dialysis patients,’ he concluded by saying. ‘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.’

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