Randomized Study of the Safety and Efficacy of Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acid) Supplementation with Dietary and Exercise Counseling for the Treatment of Antiretroviral Therapy—Associated Hypertriglyceridemia

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Background.Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils) reduce fasting serum triglyceride levels and cardiovascular disease risk in individuals without HIV infection. Whether omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can reduce hypertriglyceridemia associated with antiretroviral therapy is not known.Methods.We conducted an open-label, randomized trial that enrolled 52 patients receiving ≥3 active antiretrovirals who had fasting triglyceride levels of >200 mg/dL and were randomized to receive nutritionist-administered dietary and exercise counseling with or without fish oil supplementation for 16 weeks.Results.Patients assigned to receive fish oil experienced a 25% mean decline in fasting triglyceride levels at week 4 (95% CI, -34.6% to -15.7% change), compared with a 2.8% mean increase among patients assigned to receive counseling alone (95% CI, -17.5% to +23.1% change) (P =.007). By week 16, the mean reduction in triglyceride levels in the fish oil arm remained significant, at 19.5% (95% CI, -34.9% to -4.0% change), whereas the mean decrease in the diet and exercise only arm was 5.7% (95% CI, -24.6% to +13.2% change); however, the difference between study arms was no longer statistically significant (P =.12). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels had increased by 15.6% (95% CI, +4.8% to +26.4% change) at week 4 and by 22.4% (95% CI, +7.91% to +36.8% change) at week 16 in the fish oil arm but did not change in the diet and exercise only group. Fish oil was well tolerated; only 1 patient experienced treatment-limiting toxicity.Conclusions.Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids in combination with dietary and exercise counseling was well tolerated and reduced fasting triglyceride levels in patients receiving antiretrovirals. To what extent the increase in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels observed in patients assigned this intervention is attributable to omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and whether this increase attenuates any benefit in lowering triglyceride levels is unclear. Given these results, further investigation of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia in HIV-infected patients is warranted.

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