What is the role of fish oil in high cholesterol?

Joseph Saseen, PharmD
Cholesterol Management
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only one approved indication for prescription strength omega-3 fatty acids (which are purified forms of fish oil). The indication is to lower triglyceride values in patients with very high triglycerides, greater than or equal to 500 mg/dL. Though many people advocate for other benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and "fish oils," this is the only approved use of the prescription products.
Omega-3 rich fish oils are found in certain nuts and seeds (such as walnuts and flax seeds) andcold water northern fish (wild Alaskan salmon, cod, mackerel, sardines, and herring). A diet rich in fish oil has been associated with a significantly lower risk of having a heart attack or experiencing sudden death from a heart attack. However, the benefits of fish oils have little to do with effects on cholesterol. In fact high doses of fish oils taken in capsule form may actuallyraise LDL cholesterol. Fish oils mainly act to lower the risk of heart attack by thinning the blood, and countering inflammation in the arteries.

Other studies have shown that fish oils can significantly lower triglycerides. This is another type of blood fat that when elevated can increase the risk of a heart attack. High triglycerides are associated with obesity and linked to diets high in refined carbohydrates (bakery products,foods rich in sugar or high fructose corn syrup) and sweetened drinks (sodas).

A dose of 1 gram a day of omega-3 fish oil is recommended for preventing a first heart attack while 2 grams or more may be used to help prevent subsequent heart attacks in those who have already experienced one or to treat high triglyceride levels.

Continue Learning about Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Whether you're visiting the drug store, grocery or natural food shop you'll likely find an aisle where there are jars and bottles of things for you to put in your body that are neither foods nor medicines. Ranging from vitamins an...

d minerals to fiber and herbal remedies, these supplements are not regulated in the same way as either food or medicine. Some of them are backed by solid research, others are folk remedies or proprietary cures. If your diet does not include enough of certain vitamins or minerals, a supplement may be a good idea. Natural treatment for conditions like constipation may be effective. But because these substances are unregulated, it is always a good idea to educate yourself about the products and to use common sense when taking them. This is even more true if you are pregnant or taking a medicine that may be affected by supplements.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.