Purpose of review: This article focuses on the potential role by which a complex mixture of omega-3 fatty acids (OM3-FAs) may beneficially modify cardiovascular risk by modifying the cholesterol composition of atherogenic lipoproteins. This hypothesis is being tested in the STRENGTH trial, which is enrolling 13 000 patients on statins at high cardiovascular risk with hypertriglyceridemia and low HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) treated with an OM3-carboxylic acid.
Recent findings: Complex mixtures of OM3-FAs containing predominately eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid in combination with statins lowers non-HDL by reducing triglyceride-rich lipoprotein cholesterol (TRL-C) while shifting small LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) to large LDL-C. Recent genomic and epidemiological studies have implicated TRL-C and small LDL-C as causal for cardiovascular disease. Therefore OM3-FAs containing both eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid in combination with statins may beneficially modify the high residual risk for patients with hypertriglyceridemia and low HDL-C.
Summary: Although outcome trials are underway, subgroup analyses of data from previous randomized controlled trials are suggestive of a reduction in coronary artery disease and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease event rates with triglyceride and TRL-C lowering therapies, particularly if accompanied by low HDL-C. Although the limitations of such data are acknowledged, clinicians must make treatment decisions while awaiting more definitive results from well-designed large-scale randomized controlled trials.