Study: Statins and omega-3 may work well together

Study: Statins and omega-3 may work well together

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one-third of American adults have high cholesterol – about 71 million people. High cholesterol is dangerous because it contributes to the buildup of plaque within the arteries that nourish the heart, which may lead to heart attacks.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 25 percent of the cholesterol in our blood comes from the food we eat, while the rest is created within the liver and different cells. Whenever people are diagnosed with high cholesterol, a conservative remedy would be to eat healthier food and take up an exercise regimen. If those approaches don't work, doctors may prescribe statins, which are drugs designed to stop the body's own production of excess cholesterol.

While statins are effective, scientists are still looking for ways to improve their performance. One research team from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts concluded that a fish oil supplement may be helpful.

'Combination … had beneficial effects'
Previous studies suggested that omega-3 fatty acids can promote healthy cholesterol levels. To investigate the effects of administering both omega-3 supplements and statins, the authors of the new study conducted an experiment that used donated umbilical cords, which simulated adult blood vessels. After exposing these cords to unhealthy cholesterol, the scientists treated some of them with statins, and others with the combination of statins and the omega-3 fatty acid known as eicosapentaenoic acid. Results showed that the combination was more than 50 percent better at reversing the cholesterol damage to the endothelial cells that lined the cords.

"We know that endothelial cell dysfunction is emerging as an early and important predictor of cardiovascular disease and plays an essential role in plaque development. Treatments that provide beneficial effects on endothelial function could have very important implications for a patient population at high risk for heart disease," lead author R. Preston Mason, Ph.D., said in a statement. "We found that a combination of statins and EPA omega-3 fatty acid, or fish oil, had beneficial effects on endothelial cells and function."

Further studies in humans may help verify these findings.

In the meantime, people who have been prescribed statins to lower their cholesterol should follow their doctors' orders. Those who are curious about giving these drugs a boost can ask their providers about the potential benefits of ultra pure omega-3 supplements, such as Omax3.