BANGOR, Maine (WABI) – This past Saturday at a conference from the American Heart Association in Chicago, researchers announced the…
BANGOR, Maine (WABI) – This past Saturday at a conference from the American Heart Association in Chicago, researchers announced the results of 2 major studies looking at who does and who can not benefit from commonly used supplements to lower cardiovascular disease risks. First, the bad news: Fish oil and vitamin D taken by healthy people at doses found in many dietary supplements obviously show no clear health benefits. However, the good news is that for those at higher risk due to elevated triglycerides, the use of prescription drugs may be associated with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, albeit at a cost.
More specifically, the first study compared the use of the drug Vascepa with a mineral oil placebo for 8000 points over a 5 year interval. Their results reported by the New England Journal of Medicine and Associated Press showed a reduced risk of heart-related deaths and strokes. Analysis of NNT data (how many points needed for treatment) showed that only 21 people would need to take the drug for five years to see one of these benefits, which is favorable compared to other NNT statistics for many medical interventions. The monthly average The cost of $ 280 for this medication is a concern for many who may not have insurance. A five-year expense for this medicine would approach 17,000 dollars.
The second study looked at an older drug marketed as Lovaza or Omacor and showed less dramatic benefits of fewer heart attacks, but experts were divided on the consequences. Because the placebo group received olive oil instead of mineral oil used in the Vascepa study, the benefit could not have been so obvious. This second study also looked at vitamin D, with participants taking 2000 units against dummy pills for five years. Unfortunately, vitamin D did not show any additional benefit on the odds of heart disease or stroke, but it was a very small decrease in cancer death. Since cancer can take years to develop, the study writers proposed a longer study to define this potential benefit. But other experts, like Dr. Clifford Rosen, former of Bangor, currently working for the Maine Medical Center, recommended that these D-vitamin effects be interpreted with caution.
So what is the starting point for the average informed health consumer? If you have the defined diagnosis of elevated triglycerides, you would be wise to have the conversation with your personal doctor on how to handle this. Certainly, if you could treat this with the usual lower carbohydrate diet recommended initially for most patients, it would not only be cheaper but probably safer in the long run. But if this preventive intervention was not effective for you, you could be a candidate for this class of medication. For the rest of us, you might want to save the dollars you spent on high doses of vitamin D or fish oil and make better use of it – like that fishing holiday in the Gulf of Mexico. You are likely to get plenty of vitamin D from the sunshine (do not forget your block!) But luckily you can enjoy some good fishes and have more than just the beneficial oils!