Health Questions and Answers

Question: How do omega-3 fatty acids affect blood lipoproteins?


Omega-3 fatty acids have their greatest impact on blood triglycerides levels, not on cholesterol. Since they don’t change cholesterol levels, some people have questioned whether they can be helpful. But it appears that lowering triglyceride levels may be good for the heart. EPA and DHA have a small but often significant effect on HDL-cholesterol levels in some patients. However, one “downside” of omega-3 fatty acids is their tendency to raise LDL levels in patients with high triglycerides levels. This effect is shared by other triglyceride-lowering drugs and we don’t yet know if it is an adverse effects. Fish oil supplementation can also lower levels of chylomicron triglycerides which enter the blood after eating. These particles may be hard on the heart as well, but this is a relatively new area of research and definitive answers are still not in hand.

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