Omega-3s may give additional heart health benefits for statin users

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock / tyalexanderphotography
© iStock / tyalexanderphotography

Related tags: Atherosclerosis

People taking statins to reduce cholesterol levels may also benefit from omega-3 supplements, says a new study which found blood pressure and arterial improvements for the fish oil users.

Data published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases​ indicated that 4 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids for eight weeks were associated with improvements in arterial elasticity, as reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

“Given clinical evidence that arterial elasticity is an independent predictor of cardiovascular mortality and predictor of future coronary artery disease, our new data support the addition of [omega-3] supplementation to cholesterol-lowering therapy to improve arterial elasticity in patients with [familial hypercholesterolemia],”​ wrote researchers from the University of Western Australia.

Study details

Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is an inherited condition that leads to elevated LDL cholesterol levels, explained the researchers. While statin therapy may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, some other cardiovascular risks still remain, including a decrease in the elasticity of the arteries.

To test if omega-3 supplementation may help, the researchers recruited 20 adults with FH who were already receiving statins. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either 4 grams per day of the Omacor product (which delivers EPA and DHA in the ethyl ester form) or no supplements for eight weeks. After a further eight week ‘washout’ period the participants were crossed over to the other group.

Results showed statistically significant improvements following omega-3 supplementation for large artery elasticity (9% increase), systolic and diastolic blood pressure (6% reductions for both measures), triglycerides levels (20% reduction), and apoB levels (8% decrease). Apo B or Apolipoprotein B is the main apolipoprotein of LDL cholesterol that is responsible for the transport of cholesterol to tissues.

On the other hand, no significant effects were observed for small artery elasticity.

“In this study, we found that [omega-3] supplementation significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure and plasma triglyceride concentrations,” ​wrote the researchers. “These findings are in agreement with other reports on the favourable (sic) effects of [omega-3] supplementation on cardiometabolic risk factors. Moreover, we also demonstrated significant improvements in large artery elasticity. It is well established that large artery elasticity is blood pressure dependent. Therefore, it is conceivable that [omega-3] supplementation could improve large arterial elasticity via effects that improve blood pressure.

“However, that no correlation was observed between the changes in large artery elasticity and systolic blood pressure, plasma triglyceride concentration or other variables suggests that the improvement in the biophysical properties of these arteries are likely to be due to a direct effect of [omega-3] on the artery wall.”

Source: Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2016.07.012
“Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Arterial Elasticity in Patients with Familial Hypercholesterolaemia on Statin Therapy”
Authors: D.C. Chan et al

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