New Study Shows Dietary Fiber Supplement Can Reduce Dose of Prescription Drug Needed to Treat High Cholesterol

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Nov 9, 2004 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Researchers from the University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ) -- Robert Wood Johnson Medical School today announced the results of a study that shows giving a psyllium supplement to patients currently taking simvastatin 10 mg for lowering LDL cholesterol is as effective as taking a double-dose of simvastatin (20 mg) alone. The study was presented today at the American Heart Association's scientific sessions in New Orleans.

"The results of this study present a breakthrough in the treatment of high-cholesterol, providing patients with a viable option to taking high-dosage statins to lower cholesterol," said Abel E. Moreyra, MD, professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and lead author of the study. "This is an important new perspective because while statins are a safe and effective way to lower cholesterol, there are risks associated with a higher dosage treatment."

The 12-week study, which included a four-week diet stabilization period, comprised 67 patients with baseline LDL cholesterol ranging from 161 to 186 mg/dL. Patients were assigned one of three random treatment groups. One group received simvastatin 20 mg plus placebo; another simvastatin 10 mg plus placebo; and the third simvastatin 10 mg plus psyllium (Metamucil). Following eight weeks of treatment, the researchers found that patients taking psyllium supplementation had an additional six percent reduction in LDL cholesterol compared to those taking the 10 mg statin drug alone.

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 37 million adults have total cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for developing heart disease. When there is too much cholesterol in the blood, cholesterol and other substances build up in the walls of the arteries. Over time, the build-up causes "hardening of the arteries" so that arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart is restricted. Blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if the flow is severely restricted, a heart attack could result.

"This new research further validates what doctors and researchers have been saying for decades -- fiber plays a critical factor in a nutritionally balanced diet," said James Anderson, M.D., chairman of the National Fiber Council and professor of the Metabolic Research Group at the University of Kentucky. "With millions of Americans falling short of the recommended 32 grams of fiber per day, these findings make it even more critical for physicians to educate all consumers about how fiber works in the digestive system and how it contributes to overall health."

Joining Dr. Moreyra as researchers on this study were Alan C. Wilson, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and Ashraf Koraym, MD, a graduate of the Cardiology Fellowship Program at the medical school.

About UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

As one of the nation's leading comprehensive medical schools, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School with campuses in New Brunswick, Piscataway and Camden, is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery and the promotion of community health for the residents of New Jersey. With 2,500 full-time and volunteer faculty, the medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels for more than 1,500 students, as well as continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs.

The medical school encompasses 21 basic science and clinical departments and also integrates diverse clinical programs conducted at its 34 hospital affiliates and numerous ambulatory care sites in the region. UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School also includes 85 centers and institutes; among them are The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the Cardiovascular Institute, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, and the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute.

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