Cholesterol/LipidsHeart DiseaseOmega-3 Fatty Acids

Incorporating the JELIS results in cholesterol-lowering treatment plans

As summarized here, JELIS is the acronym for “Japan EPA Lipid Intervention Study.” It showed that adding eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) — an active component of omega-3 fatty acids — to low-dose statin therapy lowered the risk for certain major problems involving the heart.

The results are finding their way into mainstream recommendations for hypercholesterolemia treatment.

Writing on Medscape, Dr. Michael Miller from the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore reminds us that the “use of an omega-3 preparation in combination with statin therapy resulted in significant reduction (19%) in cardiac death, myocardial infarction, and cardiac revascularization compared with statin therapy alone.”

According to Dr. Miller these results are impressive for 2 reasons.

  • Treatment with omega-3 fatty acids complements ongoing statin treatment — a well-established source of cardioprotection.
  • The Japanese consume a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, “the additional benefit gained raises the possibility that populations that consume low amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, as in the United States, may derive even greater cardiovascular benefit if exposed to a greater quantity or more highly concentrated sources of omega-3s.”

The bottom line?
There are some details to be worked out.

For example, how much must be taken each day? In JELIS the dose was 1800 mg/day of highly purified EPA capsules. However, because the dose was taken against a background of higher dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake compared to Western diets, it’s not clear if the same dose would be needed for protection.

The other question is economic: should you buy omega-3 over the counter and pay for it yourself, or get a prescription and pay the deductible?

Finally, it’s worth discussing all this with your healthcare provider. Omega-3 fatty acids taken as supplements can lower triglycerides, but they can also raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, as reported here.

10/8/07 16:18 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.