February 2010
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How can fish oil lower cholesterol ?  Actually, it is not a simple “yes or no” answer. But here are the facts.

Cholesterol’s Role

Cholesterol is not actually a “bad” thing.  Our bodies use it to manufacture cellular membranes, hormones, neurons and for other purposes.

Years ago, it was believed that high total levels in the bloodstream were predictive of an increased risk of heart disease.  Now, we know that it is not the total level.  Other things are more important.

Lipoproteins Job

Cholesterols are transported through the bloodstream in particles called lipoproteins.  The transport mechanism is necessary, because the water-based bloodstream will not allow for fats to be dissolved or transported.  “Oil and water don’t mix.”

Lipoproteins are composed of fat and protein molecules.  The more protein there is in the lipoprotein, the better, when it comes to arterial health, because they are denser.

The high density lipoproteins are commonly referred to as HDLs.  They are also often referred to colloquially as “good” cholesterols.  However, that is something of a misnomer, because the cholesterols in HDL particles are exactly the same as those in the LDL low-density particles.  There is just less protein in the LDLs.  Because they are less dense, LDL particles clog the arteries.

So, can fish oil lower cholesterol carrying LDL particles?  That’s still not a simple question.

Triglycerides – How Important?

There is another factor that doctors consider when evaluating a patients cardiovascular health through blood profiles.  That factor is the total triglycerides or the total amount of fat that is in the bloodstream.  In addition to the fats in the lipoprotein particles, there are also free fatty acids and other kinds of fat-related compounds. 

Very high blood triglycerides are an indisputable risk factor for heart disease.  There is some debate about the whole HDL/LDL correlation.  But, most agree that high HDL, low LDL and low total triglycerides are good.  Here’s a simpler question.

Does fish oil lower cholesterol carrying HDL particles? 

No, research has shown that the supplements increase the number of HDL particles.  That’s good, because HDL particles serve to gather up lower density particles and carry them back to the liver for disposal or reprocessing.  When it comes to heart and vascular diseases, as long as they are not in the bloodstream, they are not a problem.

Particles that stay in the bloodstream too long can penetrate through the inner lining of blood vessels and arteries.  There they can become hardened or oxidized.  The hardened particles cause inflammation and narrowing of the arteries, which eventually can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke or heart failure.

LDL Particles

Now, when taking fish oil lower cholesterol carrying LDL particles is not an absolute result.  It depends on the type and content of the omega-3 fatty acids.  There are several types of omega-3s in the oils, including DHA, EPA and DPA. 

Studies indicate that DHA is more effective for increasing the number of HDL particles than is EPA or DPA.  So, read the label and look at the DHA content before you buy.

A good supplement can definitely lower total blood triglycerides.

So, while the answers concerning fish oil and lower cholesterol and the various cholesterol-carrying particles may seem vague.  There is no doubt that Omega3 Fish Oil  is beneficial for the cardiovascular system even if it only lowered triglycerides.

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