Cholesterol Treatment

Does Fish Oil Reduce Cholesterol Levels?

Fish oil can work wonders in bringing down your cholesterol levels. But many people believe that Omega three fatty acids, an essential component of fish oil, have a negative effect on your cholesterol levels.  Is that so? What is the truth?

Let's find out the real truth about fish oil.

The Problem with Fish Oil:

Talking of cholesterol, there are three things that count i.e. HDL or High Density Lipoproteins (good cholesterol), LDL or Low Density Lipoproteins (bad cholesterol), and Triglycerides.

When you consume fish oil daily you tend to reduce triglycerides by 25 to 40 percent while you increase HDL, the good cholesterol by 1 to 3 per cent. However you would also notice a marked increase in the LDL levels by 5- 20 per cent.

Now this increase in LDL is something which is scary enough for anyone to discontinue fish oil. Thus many physicians do not prescribe mega 3 fatty acids or fish oil to cholesterol patients. Some doctors also believe that it is because of the cholesterol present in fish oil capsules or the fatty substance present in fish oil that leads to high cholesterol levels or Hypercholesterolaemia.

So is quitting fish oil the best way to bring down your cholesterol levels?

The Answer:

While consumption of fish oil may result in an 'apparent' increase of LDL, the truth behind the matter is completely different. For this we need to understand the working of Omega 3 fatty acids present in fish oil and their affect on cholesterol.

Triglyceride, a substance closely related to cholesterol and known to cause coronary artery disease among women is lowered by the consumption of fish oil. Very Low Density Lipoprotiens (VLDLs) or Intermediate density Lipoproteins (IDLs) carries these Triglycerides in the blood stream.

Here it would be appropriate to mention that VLDL is the initial phase of LDL. It is these very low-density lipoproteins that gradually become low density lipoproteins or bad cholesterol. So what really happens after consumption of fish oil is that the VLDL is converted to LDL. There is no addition of any new LDL in the body.

Thus fish oil only causes a shift from VLDL to LDL and this is why it shows an apparent rise in LDL.

Another thing that one must understand is that LDL is calculated and not measured. This calculation is at times done in reference to the average values of GDL and Triglycerides. At times, a rise in HDL or decrease in Triglycerides may show an increase in LDL.

The bottom-line

Fish oil thus only leads to a transformation of VLDL to LDL. Consumption of the oil does not lead to any rise in the LDL levels. Considering the overall results offered by fish oil, they seem to be on the positive side for any one trying to reduce cholesterol.

Besides lowering triglycerides, studies have proved that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acidamounts (EPA) in the form of omega 3 acids or fish oil supplements, lowers the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, reduces high blood pressure slightly, and thereby decreases the risk of heart diseases and strokes.
It is recommended by FDA, that people who are not documented as coronary heart disease patients should eat a variety of fish (oily) at least 2 times a week. They can also add oils and foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid such as flax seed in their diet. However, patients of coronary heart disease should consume 1 gram of EPA+DHA per day from oily fish. It is best to consult a physician though. People who want to reduce triglyceride can use 2 to 4 grams of EPA+DHA per day.