Is there a role for omega-3, red yeast rice, and garlic in preventing cardiovascular problems?

First, the details.

  • Studies reviewed were all prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled.
  • All had predefined clinical cardiovascular end-points.
  • At least 2000 patients
  • Follow-up over 2 years

And, the results from key studies
Omega-3 fatty acids

  • GISSI-P: Reduction in sudden death of 45%, and in death due to cardiac causes 35%, probably via an anti-arrhythmic effect.
  • JELIS: High doses of omega-3 in Japanese patients on a high fish diet and already on statins produced further benefit, with a 19% reduction of nonfatal cardiovascular outcomes; fatal cardiac events were not affected.

Red yeast rice

  • CCSPS: Xuezhikang, a commercial red yeast rice preparation, produced a 46% reduction in nonfatal heart attack and death due to coronary heart disease.


  • No study shows that garlic reduces clinical cardiovascular outcomes.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Omega-3 in modest doses reduces cardiac deaths, and in high doses reduces nonfatal cardiovascular events.”

In 1 study, red yeast rice reduced side effects to a similar degree as the statins. This isn’t surprising since the active ingredient in red yeast rice is the statin, lovastatin (Mevacor).

“It is unlikely that garlic is useful in preventing cardiovascular disease,” concluded the authors.

11/7/08 22:21 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.