Fish oil and statin drugs are big news these days. Depending on where you read about or hear about cholesterol reduction, the controversy between them is so prevalent, it's easy to get confused. Let's review both supplements from efficiency and safety standpoints.
It's reasonable to expect that any natural supplement is safer than a pharmaceutical. Natural therapy is proven to have rare side-effects in comparison with numerous side-effects of prescription drugs.
For example, fish oil contains a rich supply of omega3s. Fatty acids in our cells mirror those found in omega3s. Therefore, our body would recognize and accept fish oil as a helper to restore and reinforce cell membranes.
But, what do scientific studies say?
Is Fish Oil Viable Alternative for Statin Drugs?
One study published in "The Lancet", a medical journal, suggested that fish oil is "slightly" better than pharmaceutical drugs for patients presenting with chronic heart failure.
When a person is in chronic heart failure, the heart is no longer capable of pumping the optimal amount of blood throughout the body because it is enlarged. Fish oil therapy provides a viable option for patients when other medications fail to work satisfactorily.
Studies funded by a grouping of Italian pharmaceutical companies found that since fish oil raises good cholesterol, it is a viable asset for patients who present with cardiovascular problems. Statins only lower bad cholesterol, without raising good cholesterol and may not offer a big benefit.
In the Italian studies, one group of participants took placebos and another group took statin drugs. The parallel study gave one group of participant's fish oil and the other placebos. Conclusion: Between fish oil and statins vs placebos, fish oil outperformed statins.
One of the largest studies to date was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers reviewed 97 clinical trials to determine whether statins, fish oil supplements or a change in diet greater impacted the number of people dying from cardiovascular disease. It also addressed mortality in general.
Statins and fish oil provided more benefits than placebos in both instances. But, between when comparing the two, fish oil proved the superior protector of cardiovascular health.
The stats reflected that fish oil reduced overall mortality rates by 23%; statins by 13%. As for death from cardiovascular disease, fish oil showed a 32% decrease; comparatively, statins showed a 23% decrease.
It's important to understand that several factors are involved in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Statins are the winner in overall reduction of cholesterol. But, fish oil guards our healthy cardiovascular system by:
- Makes blood less sticky, thus safeguarding us from blood clots.
- Acts as anti-inflammatory for blood vessels.
- Regulates heart beats, thereby reducing risk of arrhythmias.
- Fights free radicals that cause inflammation in arteries.
Since statin drugs do work to lower cholesterol, are there increased health benefits by taking a fish oil and statin combo?
Fish Oil in Combination with Statin Drugs
Statins were at first believed the miracle drug of our generation. They were touted to help everything from cholesterol to osteoporosis and most things in between. However, patients taking statins, such as Zocor, Lipitor or Pravachol began reporting devastating side-effects.
While there are dozens of lesser side-effects, here are a few of the known, dangerous side-effects:
- Potential liver damage
- Myositis - inflammation of muscles
- Rhabdomyolysis - extreme pain and inflammation of muscles leading to muscle damage.
- Creatine Kinase elevation. High blood levels of this enzyme can cause weakening muscles, pain and inflammation.
Knowing the potential risks vs. benefits of statin drugs, would adding a fish oil supplement help or harm patients?
According to a study published in "Heart", a British journal of medicine, the resounding answer is "Yes". A United Kingdom university concluded that a fish oil and statin combo lowered triglycerides even more than the statin drug taken alone had previously accomplished.
The reasoning is that statins have an effect on the protein in our liver that produces cholesterol. The brain sees statin drugs as invaders and alerts the liver to get rid of them. It generally isn't wise to add certain pharmaceuticals to a statin drug regime. Adding various chemical components restricts elimination by our liver.
However, our body easily recognizes fish oil as compatible to omega3s it manufactures. In addition, fish oil isn't metabolized by our liver.
Bottom line - If you're doing well on statin drugs, adding a fish oil supplement is helpful not harmful.
Fish Oil vs. Statin Drugs
Fish oil is safe and works efficiently to raise good cholesterol, fight free radicals and is an anti-inflammatory. Statin drugs aren't equally safe, since the body sees them as intruders. They work efficiently to lower overall cholesterol. But, statins lack the added health benefits of omega3 fatty-acids.