Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are back in the research news, this time as the focus of a study looking at whether omega-3 supplementation can reduce the recurrences of a type of irregular heartbeat that can trigger a stroke. The answer to that question appears to be no. “We now have definitive data that they won’t work for most patients with AF [atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat],” the study’s lead author, Dr. Peter R. Kowey, told HealthDay.

Funded by GlaxoSmithKline—the pharmaceutical company that sells the prescription fish oil drug, Lovaza, in the United States—the research will appear in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and was presented Nov. 15 at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Chicago.

The study was the largest of its kind to look at people who have atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, but are otherwise healthy. “We cannot say there is any convincing evidence of a role for omega-3 in the prevention of atrial fibrillation,” Dr. Ranjit Suri, director of the Electrophysiology Service and Cardiac Arrhythmia Center at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told HealthDay. But Suri, who was not involved in the trial, also added: "Omega-3 may be helpful in patients with high triglycerides and bad overall cholesterol profiles or people prone to electric storms in the heart who are at risk of sudden death.”

Read the HealthDay report.