AHA 2022: SPORT Trial Shows OTC Supplements Don’t Beat Statins for Cholesterol-Lowering

By Debra L. Beck, MSc  |  November 22, 2022

AHA SPORT Trial

Researchers tested 6 widely used dietary supplements often promoted for improving heart health against low-dose statins and placebo and found statins to be the clear winner. 

Average LDL cholesterol reduction after 28 days was 37.9% among participants who took the statin, while changes in LDL cholesterol levels among those who took any of the dietary supplements was comparable to those in the placebo group.

Luke J. Laffin, MD, co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at the Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland, Ohio), presented the findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 in Chicago in early November. They were simultaneously published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 

Americans spend an estimated $50 billion on dietary supplements annually, many of which are marketed for ‘heart protection’ or ‘cholesterol management’. Yet there is minimal-to-no research demonstrating these benefits,” said Dr. Laffin. 

SPORT (Supplements, Placebo or Rosuvastatin Study) compared the effectiveness of a low-dose statin to that of six common dietary supplements – fish oil, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric, plant sterols, or red yeast rice. A total of 199 adults with no history of cardiovascular disease participated. 

In the statin arm, a mean 24% decrease in total cholesterol was seen. Rosuvastatin 5 mg also reduced triglycerides by 19%. Compared to placebo, none of the supplements reduced LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol or triglycerides significantly. 

There was no significant change in HDL cholesterol with rosuvastatin, but compared to placebo, the plant sterols dietary supplement notably lowered HDL cholesterol.

Compared to placebo, the garlic dietary supplement notably increased LDL cholesterol.

None of the study interventions notably impacted inflammatory markers in the blood that suggest a higher risk for heart disease during the 28 days of the study.

“This study sends an important public health message that dietary supplements commonly taken for ‘cholesterol health’ or ‘heart health’ are unlikely to offer meaningful impact on cholesterol levels. The results also indicate that a low-dose statin offers important beneficial effects on one’s cholesterol profile. Future research should study other types of dietary supplements and their potential impact on cholesterol levels,” said Laffin in an AHA press release. 

One limitation of the study was its short duration of only 28 days, which was long enough to demonstrate a reduction in LDL cholesterol with rosuvastatin but might not have been sufficient to show an effect from the supplements.  

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