Statins are prescription medications that can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. While over-the-counter (OTC) fish oil may have benefits for general heart health, it is not a recommended treatment for cholesterol.
Fish oil contains omega-3, a type of essential fatty acid that may have a number of benefits. However, because OTC fish oil can come from a variety of sources, the amount of omega-3 in these supplements
In this article, we will discuss the differences between statins and fish oil supplements. We will also look at the benefits and side effects of each.
Statins are drugs that doctors prescribe to
- decrease total blood cholesterol
- lower triglycerides
- reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol
- raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol
Doctors also call statin medications hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors.
Statins bind to HMG-CoA reductase, which is a protein involved in the production of cholesterol in the liver. By reducing the production of cholesterol in the liver, the body produces more LDL receptors.
This means the liver can store more LDL, removing it from the bloodstream.
Fish oil is a dietary supplement that companies can make from a range of different oily fish, such as herring, mackerel, or anchovies. It contains two important omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
As a result, they are not a reliable treatment for any medical condition, including high cholesterol.
OTC fish oil supplements are not better for treating high cholesterol than statins.
People can use OTC fish oil supplements to
By contrast, statins are
Some people may be able to take fish oil alongside statins. However, EPA and DHA have different effects on LDL. Some
EPA has no effect or a slight lowering effect on LDL. If DHA could be harmful, people should check with a doctor before taking fish oil or other products that contain it.
There are also
Both statins and fish oil supplements can cause side effects. However, people usually tolerate both well.
The side effects for fish oil are typically mild. They include:
The following table lists
|icosapent ethyl (Vascepa)||joint pain, mouth and throat pain|
|omega-3-acid ethyl esters (Lovaza)||belching, stomach ache, altered taste, constipation, vomiting, increased liver enzymes, itchiness, rash|
Side effects of statins can be more serious. Some of the
While these are some of the more common reactions to statins, they rarely occur. People who experience muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness will find these side effects go away once they stop taking the medication.
If people are experiencing side effects while taking statins, they should contact a doctor.
Some people cannot tolerate statins and may require an alternative. Doctors may suggest a combination of dietary changes and
- nicotinic acid
- bile acid sequestrants
- proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 inhibitors
Each of these medications has different effects, and not all of them are a direct replacement for statins. Some people may need to take more than one lipid-lowering prescription medication to control their cholesterol.
Diet can also play a role in treating those who are intolerant to statins. Doctors
- is low in saturated fat
- is rich in fiber
- contains plant sterols, which people can get from fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts
Chinese red yeast rice may also be an additional option for some people. This dietary supplement produces substances that also inhibit the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme, the target of statin medications.
However, statins have greater cholesterol-lowering potential, and as an OTC supplement, Chinese red yeast rice can vary in potency and quality, just as OTC fish oil supplements can. Also, some products may contain harmful contaminants.
Because of this, it is important to speak with a doctor before using Chinese red yeast rice for any health condition.
While OTC fish oil has a reputation for aiding heart health, it is not a medical treatment for the conditions that statins can treat. Most fish oils are dietary supplements that can vary in potency.
There are prescription omega-3 products that can help treat high triglyceride levels, as statins can. However, depending on the product, they can work in different ways.
People with high triglycerides or high cholesterol levels should consult a doctor before trying any additional supplements or if they want to try prescription omega-3.