A new study has shown that a fish oil ingredient added to cholesterol-lowering drugs can provide extra protection against damage caused by heart disease. Researchers in Japan had recruited patients taking statins to lower their cholesterol found giving them the fish oil fatty acid EPA improved their health.
Besides, they were 19% less likely to suffer non-fatal heart attacks and other events such as unstable angina, or surgical procedures such as widening of the arteries and by-passes, than those taking statins without EPA.
EPA, eliosapentaenoic acid, and its fish oil fatty acid cousin DHA, have both been shown in previous studies to reduce the risk of death from heart disease.
The new study involved more than 18,600 patients with an average age of 61 who had suffered from high levels of cholesterol in their blood.
They were split into two groups, one of which was treated with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, and the other with both statins and a daily 1800 milligram EPA supplement.
After a follow-up period of around five years, 2.8% of patients in the EPA group and 3.5% in the statin-only group had experienced a major coronary event – a relative difference of 19%.
The effect was not related to lower levels of harmful LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which decreased by 25% in both groups. EPA treatment had no significant impact on heart attacks alone, either fatal or non-fatal.
However the frequency of non-fatal coronary events generally, including heart attacks, unstable angina, and having to undergo surgical procedures, was 19% lower in patients taking EPA.