~ Fish Oil Beats Statins for Lowering Mortality Risk

The April 11 2005 issue of 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 97 clinical trials published between 1965 and 2003 that included 137,140 men and women being treated and 138,976 control 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 signifcantly 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 and 23 percent by omega-3 fatty acids compared to the risk experienced by those who did not receive treatment. 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 acids in lowering the risk of overall and cardiac mortality cannot be explained by an ability to reduce cholesterol, which averaged 2 percent in this meta-analysis compared to an average reduction of 20 percent acheived 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.

Fish And Soy Oil Provide Short As Well As Long Term Heart Benefits

The April 2005 issue of the journal Chest (http://www.chestjournal.org/) has found that supplementation with soy or fish oil benefitted the heart in a matter of weeks. Fish oil and soy contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to provide cardiovascular benefits when consumed long term.

Researchers from Atlanta, Boston, and Cuernavaca, Mexico, divided 58 older patients to receive 2 grams fish oil or 2 grams soy oil for 11 weeks. Heart rate variability (HRV), which is a measure of cardiac autonomic function, was assessed every other day for two months prior to the study to established a baseline for each participant. Greater variability between beats reduces the risk of arrhythmia with its possibility of sudden death.

At the study's conclusion, both groups of participants experienced a significant increase in heart rate variability, but those who received fish oil experienced an increase after only 2.7 weeks compared to 8.1 weeks for the soy oil group. Lead author Fernando Holguin, MD, of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, commented, "Our findings contradict the current belief in the medical community that increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids produces only long-term cardiac benefits. In fact, our study group showed improvements in heart function in as little as two weeks."

He added, "Reduced HRV predicts mortality and arrhythmic complications in patients who have had a heart attack, as well as those who are considered healthy. Taking a daily supplement of fish or soy oil may help reduce the risk of suffering an adverse cardiovascular event, such as arrhythmia or sudden death, specially in persons with known cardiovascular disease or at increased risk for it, such as those with lipid disorders, advanced age, hypertension, a history of smoking, and family history of heart disease."
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