There is strong scientific evidence that omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduce triglyceride levels when used at higher doses (>2 g/day). Higher doses have been found to have greater effects, and a dose of four grams daily may lower triglyceride levels by up to 40%, which is similar to other prescription drugs used in the management of high triglycerides. There may be an additional reduction in triglycerides when used with statin drugs such as simvastatin and atorvastatin. Omega-3 fatty acids also modestly increase HDL (good fat) and LDL (bad fat) levels.
Other Reported Benefits
While there are numerous reports of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for various diseases such as dementia, depression, asthma, stroke, cancer. The data supporting these claims are conflicting and limited.
Anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil have also been suggested because omega-3 fatty acids [eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)] are precursors to specific inflammatory mediators. However, production and breakdown of these inflammatory metabolites is very complicated, and the effect of EPA and DHA levels is difficult to assess.
Omega-3 fatty acids may affect the immune system and fats in the blood in people with rheumatoid arthritis, which may relate to the improvements in morning stiffness and joint tenderness observed in several studies. Benefits may increase with use of anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin. However, effects beyond three months of treatment are unclear, and more research is needed before a firm conclusion may be made about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
DHA is a necessary structural component of the brain and eye, so omega-3 FA intake in pregnancy during the prenatal and early postnatal periods appears to have modest beneficial effects on neurodevelopment and cognitive outcome of the offspring.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation through fish oils have successfully reduced the risk of sudden cardiac death and coronary heart disease-related death in people with or without heart disease. It has also successfully decreased triglyceride levels, even in patients already on other prescription products for cholesterol management.
Maintaining a balanced diet of nutrients as well as healthy fats is critical for overall health management. Omega-3 fatty acids are lacking in the traditional American diet, so supplementation is often necessary. As more data is collected on the role of omega-3 fatty acids in combating other diseases, there may be a greater trend towards increased dietary fish intake or fish oil supplementation.
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