Omega-3 fats are often labeled as being “healthy fats”, and are an important part of a person’s healthy diet. While there are foods that can provide a person with all the omega-3 they need, these fats are also available in as supplements, and some of the most commonly-known ones are fish oil supplements.
What are omega-3 fats?
Omega-3s are fatty acids that your body can’t produce on its own, but that are required for your health. Having a diet that also includes these essential fatty acids is important so that you won’t have to turn to omega-3 supplements to get them.
Omega-3 fatty acids are:
- ALA (short for alpha-linolenic acid), which is normally found in plants, and is also one of the main omega-3 sources of your diet. People get their ALA intake by eating foods such as walnuts, soybeans, canola oil, or flax seeds.
- DHA (short for docosahexaenoic acid) is an important part of your brain, retina, and different other body parts and organs. It comes from animal products, particularly fish meat and fish oil. It can also be obtained from produce made from grass-fed animals.
- EPA (short for eicosapentaenoic acid), which is found in algae and animal foods, just like HDA.
Omega-3 and cholesterol
Studies that linked omega-3 consumptions and triglycerides have resulted in the following conclusions:
- There seems to be a direct link between how much omega-3 fats your consume and how much your triglyceride levels drop. However, some studies have been conducted on large amount of omega-3, which would require consuming a lot of fish meat and fish oil to reach the desired level. In these cases, taking omega-3 supplements can help.
- One particular study has shown that about 900 mg of omega-3 fatty acids consumed every day over a period of six months can lower triglyceride levels with about four percent.
- Studies have also shown that the most efficient dosage of omega-3 fats is between two and four grams, which would decrease triglyceride level with 25 to 45 percent.
- People that have a high triglycerides count (that is anything above a reading of 500 mg/dL) are the one who most benefits from a diet rich in omega-3.
Another potential benefit that omega-3 fats pose to your overall cholesterol levels is the fact they can literally increase the size of your particles, making it less likely for some people to develop atherosclerosis. Small LDL particles aren’t as beneficial for your health as larger ones.
It has also been noted that omega-3 fatty acids can increase HDL levels.
Fish oil and cholesterol
Fish oil is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Supplements that contain fish oil can be consumed in pill, capsule, and liquid form, and are often prescribed by doctors for certain patients with high cholesterol which could benefit from extra omega-3 fats in their diet.
Scientific evidence has shown that fish oil is good in treating four main conditions:
- It’s good for people who have high cholesterol, as it reduces blood triglycerides, while also increase good cholesterol level, which helps the body get rid of LDL.
- People with high blood pressure can also benefit from fish oil as part of their diets, as research has linked a mild improvement in blood pressure levels of patients consuming fish oil.
- Those with rheumatoid arthritis can take fish oil supplements to ease their pain, as it helps deal with morning stiffness and joint tenderness. While it doesn’t remove this discomfort for good, taking fish oil supplements may eliminate the need for other anti-inflammatory drugs.
- By consuming fish such as tuna and salmon, you can get just enough fish oil to significantly reduce your chances of having a heart attack.
A particular research conducted on 22 patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (a gene mutation that interferes with the body’s ability to process cholesterol) has shown that taking omega-3 supplements can help lower triglyceride levels of those who have this genetic disorder.
Fish oil safety and side effects
Omega-3 fats should be part of everyone’s diet, as they provide a lot of health benefits both on the short and long term. The best way to consume fish oil is by actually eating fish about twice every week. Since fish oil doesn’t contain significant traces of mercury, it can also be healthier compared to eating actual fish.
Supplements with fish oil are typically safe if you don’t consume more than the recommended dosage. Some of the side effects of over-consumption include rash, nausea and vomiting, bad breath and unpleasant aftertaste, loose stools, or indigestion.
There are also some classes of drugs that are best not combined with fish oil supplements, such as:
- Contraceptive drugs can lower the effectiveness that fish oil supplements have in lowering triglyceride levels.
- Anticoagulant drugs may also pose a risk, because they act to reduce blood clotting, while one of the side effects of consuming too many fish oil supplements is bleeding.
- Blood pressure drugs, as well as fish oil supplements can decrease a person’s blood pressure too much.
- Fish oil may also have an impact on vitamin E levels.
Omega-3 fats should be a part of every person’s diet, because they are efficient in keeping triglycerides under control, while also providing other health-related benefits, such as lowering blood pressure. These fats can be naturally obtained by consuming fish and fish-based products, but they can also be obtained through over-the-counter supplements.
Fish oil supplements have been long studied and are considered to be an efficient source of omega-3 fats, particularly in people with high cholesterol problems. While overdosing on fish oil supplements is highly unlikely, it’s best not to take them unless your doctor recommends it.