Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from fish oil lowers triglyceride levels.

Now, a study in Japan reports that adding EPA to low-dose statin therapy lowers the risk for certain major coronary events, including nonfatal heart attacks, unstable angina and the need for revascularization procedures).

First, the details.

  • JELIS is the acronym for “Japan EPA Lipid Intervention Study.”
  • 18,000 patients were treated with 1800 mg/day of highly purified EPA capsules or served as controls for 4.6 years.
  • Typically, 250 mg of EPA per day corresponds to 1 to 2 serving of fish per week.
  • All patients received low doses of pravastatin (Pravachol) 10 mg or simvastatin (Zocor) 5 mg daily.
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol at the start of the study was 183 mg/dL.

And the results.

  • In Japanese patients with high cholesterol blood levels, EPA treatment in addition to low dose statins was associated with a 19% reduction in major nonfatal coronary events.
  • EPA in addition to low dose statins was not associated with reduced death due to heart complications in Japanese patients with hypercholesterolemia.

The bottom line?
The absence of any effect on death rates might be explained by the typical Japanese diet, which is high in EPA, and this makes it harder to show a difference between treatment and “control.”

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian from the Harvard Medical School in Boston stated, “Compared with drugs, invasive procedures, and devices, modest dietary changes are low risk, inexpensive, and widely available. We must curb our infatuation with downstream risk factors and treatments, and focus on the fundamental risk factors for cardiovascular disease: dietary habits, smoking, and physical activity.”

4/7/07 10:15 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 www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.