September 01, 2008
Fish Oil Better Than Statin For Chronic Heart Failure

Omega 3 fatty acids work better than a popular statin to extend life of those already diagnosed with an enlarged failing heart.

In the group of patients taking the fish oil pills, 1,981 died of heart failure or were admitted to the hospital with the problem. In the patients on placebo pills, 2,053 died or were admitted to the hospital for heart failure.

In a parallel study, the same team of Italian doctors gave 2,285 patients the drug rosuvastatin, also known as Crestor, and gave placebo pills to 2,289 people. Patients were then tracked for about four years. The doctors found little difference in heart failure rates between the two groups.

This is not an argument against taking statins to lower cholesterol. A cholesterol lowering drug can prevent artery clogging that will eventually cause cardiovascular failure. But once the damage has already reached a critical phase statins basically come too late to make much difference.

I see this result as more evidence that the type of fat you eat is probably more important than the amount of fat you eat.

Heart disease is not the only degenerative disease whose progress you can slow or stop once you have it. A vitamin supplement formula including omega 3 fatty acids appears to slow or stop the progress of atrophic (dry) age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Other diseases such as insulin resistant diabetes can be made less bad by diet. But better to improve the diet decades before you become old enough to be at risk for these degenerative diseases of old age.

Update: A new study finds that higher dietary omega 3 fatty acids the most likely cause of lower heart disease risk in Japan.

If you're fishing for ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, you might start with the seafood-rich diet typically served up in Japan. According to new research, a lifetime of eating tuna, sardines, salmon and other fish appears to protect Japanese men against clogged arteries, despite other cardiovascular risk factors.

The research, published in the August 5, 2008, issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), suggests that the protection comes from omega-3 fatty acids found in abundance in oily fish. In the first international study of its kind, researchers found that compared to middle-aged white men or Japanese-American men living in the United States, Japanese men living in Japan had twice the blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids—a finding that was independently linked to low levels of atherosclerosis.

"The death rate from coronary heart disease in Japan has always been puzzlingly low," said Akira Sekikawa, M.D., Ph.D, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, and an adjunct associate professor at Shiga University of Medical Science, Otsu, Japan. "Our study suggests that the very low rates of coronary heart disease among Japanese living in Japan may be due to their lifelong high consumption of fish."

Click thru to read all the details of how the researchers came to this conclusion. Or just start eating fish or taking DHA/EPA capsules.

Update: Still not ready to change your diet? Also remember my recent post Fish Reduce Aging Brain Lesions.

Update II: If you want to be hungry like a wolf then eat salmon.

Wolves are not quite the red-blooded hunters we thought they were. It appears they prefer to dine on a nice piece of salmon rather than deer.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 September 01 07:22 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

Mthson said at September 1, 2008 11:10 PM:

Might as well enjoy the tablespoon of oil on your food, rather than in a capsule :)

I get Spectrum Essentials' lemon-flavored Cod Liver Oil in bulk (via a local co-op / buying club). Spectrum Essentials is an organic brand.

Bisaal said at September 2, 2008 9:30 PM:

There is very little hope for significant gains from BioTech or New Medicine as long as the majority of scientists/doctors are under grip of
saturated fat-phobia.
Why do you ignore numerous studies that show that Cholesterol doesnt kill and statins have very serious side-effects that are derimental to uality of life.
Also it was shown that statin dont even benefit you unless you are a male over 65 and have already suffered a heart attack.

Fish oils are also problematic. They only treat a number but not the underlying pathology. They are esp problematic for people who consume a lot of carbs.

Clayton said at September 4, 2008 9:06 AM:


Please show me where you have evidence that omega 3 (N-3 or w-3)Fish oils i.e. eicosapenteanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA)do not treat the underlying pathology. Look up the research that charles serhan is doing at Harvard in regards to lipid mediated hormones called resolvins and protectins. Do you need me to point out that every cell and organelle in the body is surrounded by a Bi-lipid layer. The fatty acids composition of that membrane determines how fluid/dense the membrane is. Said another way, it determines the permeability of the cell wall. This is the mechanism in which researchers explain how taking fish oil can dramatically lower your blood lipid profile. Remember basic biology, the organelle we call mitochondria consumes Fatty Acids and use them to create energy for the cell. If a diet is rich in sugar and/or excessive saturated fats AND low in the N-3 fats EPA and DHA, the permeability of the cell goes down, not allowing the cell to take in lipids that are used for energy. Increased consumption of fish or N-3 fish oils increases cell permeability, which increases the cellular uptake of lipids.Yes this is one component of the etiology of disease. Read up on resolvins, protectins, lipoxins and the role of N-3's as an anti-inflammatory. Please take into account that your brain and eyes are where 70% of the n-3 DHA concentration is found. Funny that the only food source of these fats is fish.....makes me wonder if it is problematic to get them in the diet. I'll ask the Japanese, they only happen to be the longest lived people on the planet, and happen to have high IQ's. I wonder why?????

"They are esp problematic for people who consume a lot of carbs." How so? evidence please!!!. Maybe you should look into the research regarding N-3 supplementation and blood sugar levels. Please read above. BTW fish oil is 2nd only to aspirin as far as research. 4000+ studies, yes four thousand plus.

Regarding spectrums fish oil... It is NOT organic. Fish are not organic, they live in water which is not and cannot be certified as organic. I take Nordic Naturals Fish oil, because Fish oil is what they do. And they do it better than anybody else, multiple patents, heavily researched with great results etc.

Science: Is omega-3 omnipotent?
By Stephen Daniells
02-Sep-2008 -

From heart health to better brain function, from reducing the risk of cancers to improving people’s moods, is there nothing omega-3 can’t do? In the first part of a four-part focus on omega-3 fatty acids, NutraIngredients reviews the science behind the headlines.

Different omega-3s, different benefits?

The main omega-3 fatty acids present on the market consist of the marine sourced eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5 n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6 n-3) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, C18:3 n-3) from plants like flax.

The omega-3s are not created equal, and different fatty acids have been associated with different benefits.

Much attention has been paid to the conversion of ALA to the longer chain EPA, with many stating that this conversion is very small. Indeed, between 8 and 20 per cent of ALA is reportedly converted to EPA in humans, and between 0.5 and 9 per cent of ALA is converted to DHA.

In addition, the gender plays an important role with women of reproductive age reportedly converting ALA to EPA at a 2.5-fold greater rate than healthy men.

This conversion obviously contributes to the body's pool of EPA and DHA, which play a key role in, amongst other things, maintaining cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular health

The strongest and most established body of science for the marine omega-3 fatty acids is in relation to cardiovascular health, first reported by Danish scientists in the early 1970s.

In addition to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, research has also linked omega-3 fatty acids to improved heart rhythms, and a reduced risk of a second heart attack.

Indeed, the first report of the reduced risk of a second heart attack was published in 2006 in The American Journal of Cardiology (Vol. 97, pp. 1127-1130) by researchers from the Mid America Heart Institute and the University of Missouri.

Only yesterday, Italian researchers reported that a daily supplement of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (EPA and DHA) may reduce mortality and admission to hospital for cardiovascular reasons in patients with heart failure by 8 and 9 per cent, respectively.

For ALA, a recent review by Israeli and British researchers reported that the vegetarian omega-3 does have cardiovascular benefits such as improved vascular tone, heart rate, blood lipid levels, blood pressure, and reduced hardening of the arteries (Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 6, pp. 326-332).

Cognitive performance

The second most established area of research, particularly for the marine omega-3 fatty acids, is cognitive performance and reducing the rate of age-related cognitive decline.

Two studies published in April 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that regular consumption of omega-3-rich food could prevent age-related cognitive decline.

The studies, from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, and the University of North Carolina, stated that only a limited number of studies have looked at the decline in cognitive function that precedes these diseases.

Researchers have started focussing their attention on Alzheimer’s disease. A pre-clinical study, supported by DHA-supplier Martek, reported that DHA may cut the build-up of a certain protein linked to Alzheimer's (Journal of Neuroscience, April 2007, Vol. 27).

The study used genetically modified mice, and is reported to be the first study to show that DHA may slow the accumulation of a protein, tau, that leads to the development of neurofibrillary tangles, one of two signature brain injuries of Alzheimer's disease.

Recently, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) used cells from mice, rats, and humans to show that the DHA-induced production of the protein LR11 may cut the build-up of plaque from beta-amyloid deposits (Journal of Neuroscience, Dec. 2007, Vol. 27, pp. 14299-14307).

Results of a clinical trial published in the Archives of Neurology (Vol. 63, pp. 1402-1408) reported that a daily supplement of 1720 mg DHA and 600 mg EPA showed promise for the slow mental decline in people with very mild Alzheimer's disease, but had no impact on people with more advanced forms.

Mood and behaviour

Linked to cognitive performance are reports that supplements of the fatty acids may improve mood and behaviour. Several studies have reported that supplementation with EPA and DHA may result in improvements in behaviour and learning of children, although such studies have their critics.

In terms of mood, several studies, such as the French study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have reported benefits for omega-3 and symptoms of depression (May 2008, Vol. 87, pp. 1156-1162).

Moreover, a joint Anglo-Iranian study reported that depression ratings were cut by 50 per cent following daily one gram supplements of EPA, an effect similar to that obtained by the antidepressant drug fluoxetine, according to findings published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (2008, Vol. 42, pp. 192-198).

However, the science overall is insufficient to support a link between omega-3 and depression, said the British Medical Journal's Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) in February 2007.


A small number of epidemiological and animal studies have reported potential role of omega-3 in the prevention of certain cancers, such as breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer.

However, various experts in this field still question if the fatty acids offer primary prevention.


Looking further afield, the fatty acids may also play a role in maintaining eye health and reducing the risk of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the over-fifties.

It is known that omega-3 fatty acids, and particularly DHA, play an important role in the layer of nerve cells in the retina, and studies have already reported that omega-3 may protect against the onset of AMD.

A study published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, reported that an increased consumption of DHA and EPA may reduce the risk of AMD by about 70 per cent.

ALA may also have eye benefits, according to findings published in the February 2008 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology. Researchers at the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Cornea Service reported that a topical application of the fatty acid may ease the symptoms of dry-eye syndrome.

Mother and child

A key area for many is the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the healthy development of a foetus during pregnancy. Many studies have already reported the necessity of would-be mothers to ensure high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, and concerns over contaminants and pollutants in fish have promoted supplemental forms.

A recent study from Canada, for example, reported that an increased intake of the omega-3 DHA during pregnancy could produce improved motor function in the offspring in later life (The Journal of Pediatrics, March 2008, Vol. 152, pp. 356-364.e1).

And increased levels were linked to improved visual, cognitive, and motor development in the offspring, report the researchers from Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit and Laval University.

Other health conditions, such as diabetes, skin health, and weight management, may also benefit from increased omega-3 consumption. The science supporting these potential benefits is less established, however.

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