An omega-3 fish oil supplement can help prevent heart-related diseases by decreasing triglyceride levels, new research finds.
Just 4 grams daily of omega-3 supplementation taken with food either as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or a combination of EPA + DHA can lower triglycerides up to 30 percent.
Dr Ann Skulas-Ray, the first author the scientific review, said:
“From our review of the evidence from 17 randomized, controlled clinical trials on high triglyceride levels, we concluded that treatment with 4 grams daily of any of the available prescription choices is effective and can be used safely in conjunction with statin medicines that lower cholesterol.”
Triglycerides are fats that are found in the blood and elevated levels of this these fats causes a build up inside the arteries.
A level of 200 mg/dL or greater of triglycerides will cause narrowing of the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
If the level of triglycerides goes above 500 mg/dL, it can cause inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
Fish is the main source of omega-3 fatty acids — the American Heart Association recommends eating at least 2 servings of oily fish (fatty fish) per week.
Salmon, trout, herring, pilchards, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, sprats and albacore tuna are all good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Supplementation with EPA in combination with a statin drug in people with high triglycerides has been shown to lower cardiovascular related incidents such as heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death by 25 percent.
However, the review found that omega-3 fatty acid medication can reduce triglyceride levels effectively whether or not people are taking statins.
Nearly 25 percent of US adults have borderline high triglycerides, a level above 150 mg/dL.
One in 5 Americans has high levels of triglycerides and due to obesity and diabetes the rate is increasing rapidly.
We obtain triglycerides from different foods and they are stored in the liver or in fat cells and they are broken down by the liver to supply energy.
Excess eating will increase the storage of triglycerides throughout the body, including the liver, leading to conditions such as fatty liver disease.
High-fat foods, processed foods, alcohol, sugary products and refined carbohydrates can all elevate triglyceride levels.
Chips, margarine, fried foods, popcorn, cookies, cakes, pastries, meat, sugary cereals, pizza, and pies are example of foods high in triglycerides.
Dr Skulas-Ray pointed out:
“Dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids are not regulated by the FDA.
They should not be used in place of prescription medication for the long-term management of high triglycerides.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in Circulation (Skulas-Ray et al., 2019).