And when the Neptune Krill Oil (NKO) was consumed in combination with low-dose statins, the effects were reported to be even more pronounced.
"Current epidemiological studies have shown a strong association between high levels of LDL and low levels of HDL and premature coronary heart disease. According to industry reports 107 million patients suffer from high LDL; however, the number of patients with low HDL exceeds 107 million," explained Dr. Tina Sampalis, vice president of R&D and business development at Neptune.
According to the American Heart Association, 34.2 percent of Americans (70.1m people) suffered from some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 2002. The direct costs of CVD from hospital, doctors, home care, and medication in the US is a staggering $258bn, with a further $145bn as indirect costs from lost productivity.
The double-blind, randomized clinical trial compared the effects of NKO, fish oil, or placebo, with or without statins (10 milligrams), giving six experimental groups. After 90 days of intervention, the researchers, affiliated with McGill University and the University of Montreal, found that NKO alone (1 to 1.5 grams per day) lowered LDL-cholesterol by 34 percent, and increase HDL cholesterol levels by 43.5 percent.
Fish oil supplements produced a decrease in LDL levels of only 4.6 percent, and increases in HDL levels of 4.2 percent. Participants taking the placebo experienced increases in LDL levels of 13 percent and decreases in HDL levels of four percent.
Statins alone (10 mg) were associated with a reduction in LDL levels of 29 and increases in HDL levels of 13 percent, showing that the NKO performed better than the most commonly used pharmaceutical intervention, albeit at low doses.
Interestingly, when statins and NKO were combined the effects were even more pronounced, resulting in LDL decreases of 37 percent and HDL increases of 51 percent.
"These results justify a future multicenter/multinational pivotal study of NKO versus statins to further evaluate the effects," said Dr. Sampalis.
Dr. Sampalis said that these changes to cholesterol levels were significantly higher than anything attributed to statins in the literature, and that the company would continue the effects of either a NKO concentrate or the NKO plus statin combo for lipid management.
The effects observed were easy to explain, said Dr. Sampalis, since NKO contains the phospholipids DHA and EPA which are substrates for apolipoprotein A1 (Apo-A1) which is required by the body to produce HDL-cholesterol.
Henri Harland, president and CEO of Neptune, hailed the results as "tremendously encouraging," and said the company would "aggressively target this market and prove NKO as a standard in lipid care."
NKO was first launched to the US dietary supplements market in 2003, but company has not yet emerged from the commercialization stage into profitability - often a long process in the biotech field. Nonetheless, the signals are positive and it seems more and more people are getting know about NKO.
NKO is derived from the planktonic family of crustacean and, as well as omega-3, it is also rich in phospholipids and antioxidants. Although Neptune believes it has no direct competitors, the general chatter about the benefits of fish-derived omega-3 has helped raise awareness of its core product.
Sales in FY2005 reached $5.1m, in the first half of 2006 they have already surpassed the $3.2m mark. What it more, the company is currently running its plant at around 40 percent capacity but plans to reach full capacity within the next 12-18 months.