Patrick Holford, 18 Oct 2017
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Everybody knows someone who died from a sudden heart attack. Knowing how to prevent cardiac death is more crucial than lowering cholesterol and, if there was an effective drugs that did just this many of us would be taking it.
A major review in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology of all studies testing the effects of supplementing omega-3 fish oils finds they are vastly more effective than statins for reducing risk of cardiac death. Fourteen randomised-controlled trials involving over 71 thousand people, were pooled, out of which there had been 1,746 cardiac deaths. Those taking 1 gram or more of omega-3 (combined EPA + DHA) had up to 29% lower risk. The inclusion of studies that used lower doses reduced the risk reduction to 8%. For those with cardiovascular risk factors (raised triglycerides or LDL cholesterol) the risk reduction was 17%.
How does this compare to the benefit you’d expect with statins? In 2015 a major European study, published in the European Heart Journal , set out to answer this question. They pooled the results of 17 trials involving over 57 thousand people in which there had been 433 cardiac deaths. There were 213 deaths in people on statins and 220 in those not taking statins. This risk reduction(of 3%) was not statistically significant.
So there you have it. You are ten times less likely to die from a heart attack if you take omega-3 fish oils (1g of EPA & DHA) a day than statins. Just in case you wondered if taking statins made taking omega-3 redundant, the recent trial found that those taking both omega-3s and statins reduced their risk of a fatal heart attack by 13% compared to those just taking statins.
Despite this fact doctors prescribe statins over omega-3s; the National Institute of Clinical Evidence (NICE) which guides doctors, favours statins over omega-3s; there are moves to stop ‘free’ prescriptions for omega-3 but not statins; and doctors are only allowed to prescribe omega-3 for up to six months, while statins can be for life. So much for 'evidence-based' medicine.