The Vitamin Kid

Avoiding bad medicine and finding non-toxic treatments that actually work

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Location: Ankeny, Iowa, United States

Monday, April 30, 2007

Worried about heart disease? Fish oil probably your best bet.

A large study of other studies (called a metastudy) is reviewed at and reveals that for people without preexisting coronary heart disease, you will be better off taking fish oils than anti-cholesterol medicine. Why? Because fish oils, although they hardly lower cholesterol levels at all, they do reduce deaths from heart disease about as much as anti-cholesterol medication.

In addition, fish oils lower your mortality from other causes. Total mortality is lower in fish oil-taking populations than in those taking cholesterol medicine.

This begs the question of just how important cholesterol levels are in the first place, does it not? Few in the public and the media seem to understand that coronary heart disease arises from a combination of factors, cholesterol being only one, and not necessarily the most important factor. Additional factors are infection and inflammation. Cholesterol itself, unoxidized, is probably not nearly as much of a threat as oxidized cholesterol. The ratio of triglycerides to high density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol) is a better predictor of death from heart disease than any single measure of cholesterol.

The numbers are clear, born out in many different studies. Taking cholesterol medication or fish oils alone does not alter mortality from heart disease that much. For people without pre-existing disease, you'd have to treat 855 people with cholesterol meds to save a single life, according to the authors' calculations. Even if you already have heart disease, treatment with omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils) would only save one life out of 155. The fish oils still have the advantage of being non-toxic to the liver and they also prevent mortaility from causes other than heart disease.