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Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements Beat Statin Drugs

Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, April 11, 2005

Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements Beat Statin Drugs for Lowering Mortality Risk

The April 2005 issue of the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine published a review of the effects of various lipid lowering regimens on overall mortality and mortality from coronary heart disease.

Researchers from Basel Institute for Clinical Epidemiology and University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland reviewed over 10,000 clinical trials published between 1965 and 2003 and chose 97 for statistical evaluation in this meta-analysis. These 97 trials were chosen because of their randomized, controlled and scientifically valid data. They included 275,000 subjects. The current analysis compared the association with mortality risk of diet, lipid lowering drugs categorized as statins, fibrates and resins, and the nutritional supplements omega-3 fatty acids (commonly found in fish oils) and niacin.

While the fibrate class of drugs failed to influence overall mortality and mildly elevated noncardiac mortality, and while diet, resins and niacin appeared to provide insignificant benefits, statins and omega-3 fatty acids significantly lowered both overall and coronary heart disease mortality risk during the trial periods.

The risk of overall mortality was reduced by 13 percent by statins. You will find this statistic publicized by the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture statins. Mortality risk was reduced 23 percent by omega-3 fatty acid supplements – Omega-3 fatty acids provided almost double the benefit of statins. This portion of the study results will not appear in the pharmaceutical company press releases or advertisements.  When the risk of mortality from heart disease alone was analyzed, the use of statin drugs and omega-3 fatty acids were found to lower the risk by 22 and 32 percent, respectively.

The superiority of omega-3 supplements in lowering the risk of overall and cardiac mortality cannot be explained by an ability to reduce cholesterol. Cholesterol reduction from Omega-3 averaged 2 percent in this meta-analysis compared to an average reduction of 20 percent achieved via the use of statins. The protection provided by omega-3 fatty acids against heart arrhythmias, along with their antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory properties may be responsible for the mortality risk reduction suggested by this review.