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Br J Nutr. 2014 Dec 28;112(12):1984-92. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514003146. Epub 2014 Oct 30.

Intrinsic heart rate recovery after dynamic exercise is improved with an increased omega-3 index in healthy males.

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School of Medicine, Medical and Exercise Science, Centre for Human and Applied Physiology, University of Wollongong,Wollongong,NSW2522,Australia.
School of Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Centre for Human and Applied Physiology, University of Wollongong,Wollongong,NSW2522,Australia.


Dietary fish consumption contributes to a reduced risk of cardiac mortality. In the present study, the effect of low-dose fish oil (FO) supplementation on heart rate (HR) response to intense exercise and recovery was investigated in physically fit males. The subjects (n 26) were supplemented (double-blind, parallel design) with (2 × 1 g/d) soya bean oil (control) or tuna FO providing the long-chain n-3 PUFA DHA (560 mg) and EPA (140 mg). Erythrocyte omega-3 index (%EPA+DHA), HR, HR variability and HR recovery were analysed during rest, intense exercise and recovery at baseline and after 8 weeks of supplementation. The mean erythrocyte omega-3 index, which did not differ between the groups at baseline (control 4.2 (sem 0.2), n 13; FO 4.7 (sem 0.2), n 13), remained unchanged in the control group (3.9 (sem 0.2)), but increased in the FO group (6.3 (sem 0.3); P< 0.01). The mean HR during supine resting conditions (control 56 (sem 10); FO 59 (sem 9)) was not affected by FO supplementation. Poincaré analysis of HR variability at rest exhibited a decreasing trend in parasympathetic activity in the FO group (SD1 (standard deviation of points perpendicular to the axis of line of identity)/SD2 (standard deviation of points along the axis of line of identity): control 0.02 (sem 0.01); FO - 0.05 (sem 0.02); P= 0.18). Peak HR was not affected by supplementation. However, during submaximal exercise over 5 min, fewer total heart beats were recorded in the FO group (-22 (sem 6) ( = -4.5 beats/min)), but not in the control group (+1 (sem 4)) (P< 0.05). Supine HR recovery (half-time) after cycling was significantly faster after FO supplementation (control - 0.4 (sem 1.2) s; FO - 8.0 (sem 1.7) s; P< 0.05). A low intake of FO increased the omega-3 index and reduced the mean exercise HR and improved HR recovery without compromising the peak HR. A direct influence of DHA via reductions in the cardiac intrinsic beat rate was balanced by a reciprocal decrease in vagal tone.

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