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Does Omega-3 Reduce Cholesterol?
Omega-3 is a group of essential fatty acids that our body needs to maintain healthy heart health, improve brain functions, and reduce inflammation. When taken in an appropriate amount, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce triglyceride levels. Our body does not produce these fatty acids, so we must obtain them through the proper diet and supplements.
It even improves good (HDL) cholesterol levels and reduces bad cholesterol levels. However, omega-3 can have varying effects on health based on an individual’s overall diet and lifestyle. If you want to lower cholesterol but have particular health conditions, we recommend consulting a doctor before taking any omega-3 supplements.
Table of Contents
What Exactly are Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are a family comprising healthy and essential fatty acids that play crucial roles in maintaining a healthy body. They have numerous health benefits and can help improve cardiovascular health, reduce triglyceride levels, prevent strokes, and control eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Our body does not produce omega-3, so we have to get them from our daily diet. Some everyday food items high in omega-3s are fish oil, flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, etc. If you don’t consume these food items, you can fulfill the minimum requirement of omega-3s by taking the right supplements.
Types of Omega-3
There are primarily three types of omega-3s you should know. We have listed them below.
1. Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)
It is the most common type of omega-3 available in your regular diet. ALA is used by your body to generate energy, but it can also be actively converted into biologically active omega-3 forms, like DHA and EPA. However, this conversion remains inefficient since only a tiny percentage of ALA is converted into EPA or DHA. Hemp seeds, soybeans, flax seeds, canola oil, and chia seeds are common food items rich in ALA.
2. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
Another essential omega-3 fatty acid is Eicosapentaenoic Acid or EPA. It is primarily found in animal products, like fish oil and fatty fish. Some microalgae also contain this omega-3 fatty acid. EPA performs multiple essential body functions like reducing triglyceride levels in the blood and preventing blood from clotting, and it has positive effects that may reduce swelling and pain. Part of EPA can be converted into DHA.
3. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
It is the most common omega-3 fatty acid present in your body. DHA is an extremely important structural component of the brain. DHA is also an important part of various body parts, including the retina of your eyes. You can get DHA primarily from animal products like meat, dairy from grass-fed animals, fish oil, fatty fish, and more. Since most DHA comes from animal products, vegetarians often lack this omega-3 fatty acid. They have to rely on microalgae supplements to fulfill the minimum DHA requirements.
Functions of Omega- Fatty Acids
Your body should have the right amount of ALA, EPA, and DHA for the proper functioning of a healthy body. For example, DHA is vital for the retina of your eyes and your brain. It is especially important in pregnant women since insufficient DHA levels can affect the baby’s intelligence and overall health. Minimum omega-3 levels should always be fulfilled in adults because it generates numerous health benefits, especially for longer-chain omega-3 forms like DHA and EPA.
Numerous research studies and clinical trials have been successfully conducted to determine the efficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, but the evidence points to mixed reactions or responses. In general, it is fair to say that omega-3 fatty acids protect people against illnesses like ADHD, breast cancer, depression, and many inflammatory diseases. People who don’t eat fish or other animal products can miss these health benefits. So it is advisable to take omega-3 supplements to fill the gap.
What are the Benefits of Taking Omega 3?
Omega 3 cholesterol or omega-3 fatty acids have numerous health benefits, especially for your cardiovascular health. If you are dealing with high cholesterol problems, one of the biggest health benefits will be reducing triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels in your blood increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
It can eventually lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease, so it becomes crucial to keep your triglyceride levels under control. But these are some areas where omega-3 can help. In addition to helping you by lowering your blood pressure and increasing HDL levels, omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk for following diseases, illnesses, or health conditions.
- Blood clots
- Cardiovascular disease
- Sudden death due to abnormal heart rhythm
- Death due to cardiovascular disease
- Development of any cancer type
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
Further research studies are also being conducted to explore more health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Which Foods are Rich in Omega-3s?
Omega-3s naturally occur in animal products but are also added to fortified food items. You can fulfill your omega-3 requirement by consuming the following food items.
- Fortified food items like milk, soy beverages, specific brands of eggs, juices, yogurt, infant formulas, and more.
- Fish and seafood items like salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, herring, etc.
- Plant oils like canola oil, flaxseed oil, and soybean oil.
- Nuts and seeds like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.
What Varieties of Omega-3 Nutritional Supplements are Offered?
The market offers a wide range of omega-3 nutritional supplements, so you have plenty of options to choose from. Dietary supplements like algal oil, fish oil, cod liver oil, and krill oil are some standard options. They provide a wide range of omega-3 forms and doses. Non-vegetarians mostly get a significant portion of ALA from their regular diet, but they have to rely on supplements like these for DHA and EPA. Vegetarians mostly rely on omega-3 nutritional supplements to fulfill the minimum and healthy levels. Having said that nuts and seeds are a good vegetarian source too.
Does Omega-3 Help in Lowering Cholesterol?
Omega-3 is essential for maintaining good health. Your body requires a certain amount of omega-3 fatty acids to perform particular functions like smooth muscle activities and cell growth. If you want to maintain normal to healthy cholesterol levels, omega-3 fatty acids can help. When it comes to lowering cholesterol levels, multiple studies have highlighted that omega-3 fatty acids hugely reduce triglyceride levels in your blood. They help improve HDL or good cholesterol levels, but in some cases, there was also a slight increase in bad LDL or bad cholesterol levels.
How Much Omega-3 Should You Take to Lower Cholesterol?
Some people confuse omega-3 with omega-6 and plan their diet accordingly. Many people eat a diet rich in omega-6, creating a lack of omega-3 in their bodies. If this gap is not taken care of, the imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 can create severe health conditions, including heart attacks. To lower your cholesterol levels, you should consume a diet high in omega-3 and not omega-6 to reduce heart diseases.
If you can maintain a ratio of 4:1 to 1:1 for omega-6 to omega-3, lowering cholesterol levels will become easy and manageable. It will also help control high blood pressure. Although the ideal consumption amount of omega-3 is still debatable, experts recommend taking omega-3 in the range of 500 to 2000 mg/day. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a person without any heart disease should consume a variety of fish twice a week, walnuts, and flaxseed, and use healthy oils like canola oil, soybean oil, and flaxseed oil. If you have any heart disease, restrict the consumption to 1 g of EPA and DHA daily.
Eating fatty fish can give you the right amount of DHA and EPA. People that need to reduce triglyceride levels can take 2 to 4 g of DHA and EPA, but it should be under a physician’s guidance. Consuming excess omega-3 can lead to excessive bleeding. It is suggested to avoid self-medicating and talk to a healthcare professional to get an ideal consumption level based on your health condition and goals.
Side Effects of Omega-3
Although omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a healthy functioning body, excess consumption can lead to side effects. Even if you have omega-3 in the appropriate amount, you can experience specific side effects. Not all the side effects listed below can occur, but if they do, it is recommended to contact your doctor immediately. Some common side effects of omega-3 are:
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Bleeding gums
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
- Coughing up blood
- Tightness in the chest
- Vaginal bleeding or increased menstrual flow
- Itching or skin rashes
- Red or black, tarry stools
- Prolonged bleeding from cuts
- Swelling around eyes, tongue, lips, and face
If you notice any of the abovementioned side effects and they remain for an extended period, you should communicate with your doctor at the earliest. In addition to these side effects, you can experience some temporary side effects as your body adjusts to the prescribed medication. The side effects listed below don’t require instant medical attention, but if the intensity or duration of these side effects increases, medical attention may be required. Here’s a list of some common yet not-so-serious side effects of omega-3:
- Acid or sour stomach
- Change in taste
- Excess gas or air in your stomach
- Upset stomach or slight discomfort
- Feeling bloated
Some other uncommon yet temporary side effects may include the following:
- Passing of gas
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach fullness
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty having regular bowel movements
Now that you’re aware of the side effects of omega-3, you will know when to contact your doctor for quick medical intervention. Even if you fail to recognize any signs or side effects, make it mandatory to consult your doctor if any form of uneasiness or discomfort lasts longer than usual.
Omega-3 for Healthy Living
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients necessary for maintaining healthy body cells. They help protect people against heart diseases and can also protect your nerve cells. Taking the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids regularly can give you the needed energy and support healthy organs, the endocrine system, the immune system, and the blood. You can fulfill your minimum omega-3 requirements by consuming fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
If you don’t like eating these, you can start incorporating the right omega-3 supplements into your everyday diet routine. However, remember to maintain the right ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 if you want to lower your cholesterol levels. If you have any particular health disorder, we suggest consulting your doctor before taking any omega-3 supplement to prevent health problems.
Should I Take Fish Oil if I Have High Cholesterol?
Yes, you can consume fish oil if you have high cholesterol. Numerous research studies and clinical trials show that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce triglyceride levels. They can also improve your High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol levels while lowering your Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol levels. However, limit your consumption to avoid getting any side effects.
What Happens if Your Omega-3 is Too High?
Excessively high levels of omega-3 can lead to numerous health problems, including excessive bleeding in case of injury, low blood pressure, increased risk of bruising, thinning of blood, etc. Some people also experience acid reflux, insomnia, diarrhea, stroke, Vitamin A toxicity, and high blood sugar as side effects of increased omega-3 levels.
Who Should Not Take Fish Oil?
People taking medicines for blood thinning should avoid taking fish oil. Such people should also avoid taking any other omega-3 fatty acid supplement as it can increase the chances of dangerous bleeding. In some cases, this can also lead to deadly strokes. So if you are taking medicines for particular health conditions, it is best first to consult your doctor regarding the consumption of omega-3 supplements.
What is the Best Omega to Lower Cholesterol?
Fish oil or cold-water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, etc., are the best omega source to lower cholesterol. Appropriate dosage consumption can lower triglyceride levels and even increase good or HDL cholesterol levels. Slight reduction in bad or LDL cholesterol levels can also be noticed.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.