Statins are highly effective cholesterol-lowering drugs but may have broader effects on metabolism. This investigation examined effects of simvastatin on serum levels of n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

Subjects were 106 healthy adults with hypercholesterolemia randomly assigned to receive placebo or 40 mg simvastatin daily for 24 weeks. Serum fatty acids were analyzed by gas chromatography.

Total fatty acid concentration fell 22% in subjects receiving simvastatin (P<.001), with similar declines across most fatty acids. However, concentrations of arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6), eicosapentanoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) were unchanged. Relative percentages of linoleic acid (LA, 18:2n-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (LNA, 18:3n-3), decreased while AA and DHA increased (P's < or = .007). In addition, simvastatin increased the AA:EPA ratio from 15.5 to 18.8 (P<.01), and tended to increase the AA:DHA ratio (P=.053).

Thus, simvastatin lowered serum fatty acid concentrations while also altering the relative percentages of important PUFAs.