The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
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    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

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    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    Omega-3 and the incidence of arrhythmias and fatal heart attack

    Researchers in Netherlands studied high-risk patients with a previous myocardial infarction and diabetes.

    First, the details.

    • 1,014 adult patients with diabetes and a history of having a heart attack were randomly assigned to receive 1 of 4 margarines for 41 months.
    • The margarines contained different combinations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
      • ALA
      • EPA-DHA
      • EPA-DHA + ALA
      • Placebo
    • The groups did not differ significantly, regarding use of blood thinner and blood pressure medications, lipid-lowering drugs, and antidiabetic drugs.

    And, the results.

    • The patients consumed on average 19 grams of margarine per day.
    • 29 patients developed a ventricular arrhythmia, 2 died suddenly, 1 had a nonfatal cardiac arrest, 11 had a fatal cardiac arrest, and 15 had a cardioverter defibrillator implanted.
    • Eating the omega-3 margarine resulted in an additional intake of 223 mg EPA plus 149 mg DHA and/or 2 grams ALA.
    • After adjusting for age, gender, and current smoking, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced ventricular arrhythmia: 1% vs 6% for placebo — a significant difference.
    • The omega-3 fatty acids also helped reduce other cardiovascular events.
    • Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation did not make a significant difference for fatal heart attack.

    The bottom line?

    The authors concluded, “Low-dose supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids exerts a protective effect against ventricular arrhythmia–related events in post-heart attack patients with diabetes.”

    It’s important to remember that these patients all had a history of myocardial infarction. Therefore, it isn’t known if the results apply to people who never had a heart attack.

    Also, although more than a thousand patients started the study, only a small number had an arrhythmia, heart attack or related event. And the findings are based on this small sample.

    12/23/11 20:32 JR

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