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DHA Lowers Triglycerides in Patients Taking Statins

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2007

Like the omega-3 fatty acid EPA, DHA also enhances the effectiveness of statin medication in patients with high blood lipids by lowering triglycerides by about 27%. 

In previous studies it was reported that patients taking statin medications to lower their LDL-cholesterol (“bad”) levels experienced additional hearth health benefits when they added EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid) to their treatment. Besides lowering their LDL-cholesterol levels, they had significantly fewer major coronary events, such as a heart attack or coronary bypass surgery, less unstable angina (chest pain because of heart disease) and fewer other non-fatal heart problems. What made these findings even more surprising is that they occurred in a large sample of Japanese patients with high cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels who already consume much more fish and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids than most people in western countries. In these 61-year-old patients, increased intake of EPA improved their heart health.

A new study from Australia reported that in a sample of 45 patients taking statins to improve their blood lipids, the addition of tuna oil to their treatment provided greater heart health benefits than statins alone. These patients had both high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They were divided into 3 groups: one taking just over 1 g/day of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid abundant in tuna oil), another taking just over 2 g/day of DHA and a control group consuming olive oil. Tuna oil also contains about 25% EPA in addition to DHA. After 3 and 6 months, the investigators measured their patients’ blood lipid levels.

Over the course of the study, all patients consuming tuna oil saw their blood triglyceride levels fall. Those taking the highest dose, 2 g of DHA/day, experienced a significant drop in their triglycerides after only 3 months. At 6 months, their triglycerides remained significantly lower, but did not decrease further. In the group taking 1 g/day of DHA, their triglycerides fell at both 3 and 6 months, but the drop did not reach statistical significance.

These 2 studies and previous reports of fish oil and blood lipids indicate that patients taking statin medications may obtain additional heart health advantages by consuming marine omega-3s – the long-chain ones, EPA and DHA – found abundantly in fatty fish or fish oil supplements. These fatty acids have the advantage over other drugs in being well tolerated, safe and without adverse side effects. In this case, food can be your medicine!

Source: Diabetes In Control: Meyer BJ, Hammervold T, Rustan AC, Howe PRC. Dose-dependent effects of docosahexaenoic acid supplementation on blood lipids in statin-treated hyperlipidaemic subjects. Lipids 2007;42:335-344.

 
 
 
 
 
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