Swiss researchers pooled research from 97 different studies in order to compare the efficacy of fish oil, statins, fibrates, niacin or diet on risk of funeral rates from heart disease or all causes.
The researchers determined that fish oil resulted in a 23% decrease in risk of death from all causes while statin medications resulted in only a 13% reduction.
For death rates from heart disease related conditions, fish oil decreased the death rates by 32% while statins decreased the rate by 22%. Overall, the fish oil provided the most benefit compared to other treatments.
When we look at studies for medications and supplements that impact a condition such as heart disease we want to know how that product benefits funeral rates (death rates). If a medication lowers rates of heart attack and has no benefit to longevity then it begs the question “why not?” This is the type of situation that we see with aspirin. Aspirin decreases death rates from heart attack, however, the side effects from the medication increase risk of death from other causes such as bleeding in the stomach or brain. In the end it is a wash because overall funeral rates are the same in the group who received the aspirin or the sugar pill. Said another way, people who take an aspirin a day don’t live a day longer than someone who doesn’t take an aspirin a day.
Fish oil appears to decrease cardiovascular related deaths as well as death from all causes. In fairness, statins appear to achieve a decrease as well. There are two differences though…
First fish oil worked better than statins and second, fish oil has almost no side effects while statins can cause pain, muscle weakness, memory loss, and liver damage. I know which one I will choose, how about you?
Arch Intern Med., April 11, 2005; Vol. 165, 725-730