Omega-3 fatty acids, like EPA and DHA found in fish oil, are turning out to be miracle drugs that protect us from myriad ailments ranging from arthritis to Alzheimer’s. Statins, another class of drugs, are designed to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. But recent research published by BMC Medicine shows that statins and fish oil may be bitter enemies, and statins may completely negate the positive effects of supplementing with fish oil.
Research on fish oil supplementation can be confusing. Some studies find it wildly beneficial, some studies find it mildly beneficial, and a few studies don’t show any benefit at all. The authors of this new study reviewed the nitty-gritty details of many of these past studies and found a pattern – people who failed to show a benefit from taking fish oil were often taking statins.
Why does this happen? We’re not entirely sure, but the authors propose some solid theories. First, statins increase arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that counteracts omega-3 fatty acids in the body. Statins also inhibit mitochondrial function, and therefore block the positive effects of the omega-3s and increase insulin resistance. That’s bad. Insulin resistance means fat retention and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The authors conclude with this damning statement: “Because of the many insidious side-effects of statins and the lack of independent recent data confirming the benefits of statins…we actually need a new and independent re-evaluation of the benefit/risk ratio of statins.”
If you take statins, you may want to have a conversation with your doctor about why you’re taking them and whether you can address those needs with lifestyle factors instead of medication.
1. Michel de Lorgeril, et. al. Recent findings on the health effects of omega-3 fatty acids and statins, and their interactions: do statins inhibit omega-3? BMC Medicine 2013, 11:5. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-5.
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