Diet and Atrial Fibrillation

Image Credit: zimpenfish / flickr

What’s the best diet for atrial fibrillation?

I started being plant based after Thanksgiving. The principal reason is for my health and hopes to reduce or eliminate some day all my meds. One area that I’ve never seen any reference to is diet and atrial fibrillation. Is there any connection? Can diet begin to replace cumadin or pradaxa?

Duke / Originally posted on the Facebook page


Atrial fibrillation is the most common clinical cardiac arrhythmia, an irregularity of our heartbeat rhythm, which can set you up for a stroke, increase your risk of dementia and heart failure, and significantly shorten your lifespan. Previous findings on the effect of diet have been conflicting. Some studies have found alcohol, caffeine and fish consumption to be good in terms of preventing or resolving atrial fibrillation, and other studies have shown them all to be bad. It’s when this kind of situation arises in nutritional science, you pull out the big guns and put it to the test in one of the bigger better studies, like the famous Framingham Heart Study population, which is what was recently done. They found no effect either way in general from the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, or fish, but when they looked closer they observed an association between the consumption of dark fish and atrial fibrillation. A 6-fold higher hazard ratio for those eating a lot of fish like salmon, swordfish, bluefish, mackerel, and sardines. They conclude that their findings may suggest a “true adverse effect of dark fish and fish oil on certain subtypes of atrial fibrillation,” proposing that “potential toxins such as dioxins and methyl mercury accumulated in certain fish may have a negative effect on cardiac arrhythmia.” I profile this study in my video Red Fish, White Fish; Dark Fish, Atrial Fibrillation.

There’s less out there about treatment, but a recent study did find that those with atrial fibrillation with higher intakes of antioxidants did have 80% greater odds of spontaneously reverting back to a normal heart rhythm. Until that happens your physician will likely want you to continue to take those two anticoagulants. My video Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods offers an overview on which foods to choose to maximize antioxidant intake, though since you’re already eating a plant-strong diet, check out Antioxidants in a Pinch for a tip on taking it to the next level. Just make sure not to increase your dark green leafy vegetable consumption while on coumadin without your physician helping you titrate your drug dose.

Image Credit: zimpenfish / flickr


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

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