Omega-3 fatty acids may protect dialysis patients from cardiac death

February 12, 2013

A study published in Kidney International shows that omega-3 fatty acids may lower the risk of cardiac death in hemodialysis patients. The five-year survival rate for patients on hemodialysis is 35%, with the risk of death highest in the first few months of starting treatment. The most common cause of death in these patients is sudden cardiac death, which accounts for about one out of every four deaths.

The researchers investigated whether long-chain omega-3 fatty acids have a protective relationship with sudden cardiac death in 100 patients who died of sudden cardiac death during the first year of starting hemodialysis and 300 patients who survived. Individuals were selected from a nationally representative cohort of more than 1,000 U.S. hemodialysis units in 2004–2005.

“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,” said Allon N. Friedman, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the Indiana University School of Medicine and first author of the study.

Friedman believes the findings are impressive enough that a placebo-controlled clinical study is warranted to confirm the results.