If your doctor diagnoses you with high cholesterol, you’ll probably leave your appointment with a prescription for statins. They’re the most popular cholesterol-lowering drug around. But you might feel hesitant to fill that prescription…
It’s not that you don’t trust your doctor. You know she’s doing her best. And I’m sure she thinks statins are your best option since they’ve been proven effective in randomized placebo-controlled clinical studies.
But you may have heard a few things about statins that concern you — like the fact that almost all the studies in favor of statins were funded by statin manufacturers. Or that statins cause side effects like an increased risk of muscle problems, Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes and breast cancer.
What should you do? Try the statins? Or search for an alternative? You’re stuck between a statin bottle and heart attack.
It sure would make your life simpler if your doctor pulled out the prescription pad and gave you something safer to manage your high cholesterol. Something with fewer side effects. Something like fish oil.
Fish oil: The future “drug” of choice for high cholesterol?
A recent review of 17 randomized, controlled clinical trials on high triglyceride levels shows that prescription omega-3 supplements are a darn effective treatment.
The review found that prescription doses of omega-3 were able to lower triglycerides by 20 to 30 percent in most people with high triglycerides (200-499 mg/dL). And the supplements worked regardless of whether people took statins or not.
The only problem?
Right now, the FDA has only approved prescription omega-3 fatty acid “medications” for people with very high triglyceride levels (above 500 mg/dL).
I know what you’re thinking… why do I need a prescription? Can’t I just head to the health food store and get some fish oil pills for myself?
Well, you absolutely can. But there are a few reasons why they believe prescription fish oil pills are more effective.
First off, they come in much larger doses. According to this review, people with high triglycerides need to take 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acid medications daily to bring their levels down. Most OTC supplements come in doses of 500-1,500 mg.
Prescription omega-3 supplements also go through a stringent purification process, meaning things like trans-fats, mercury and contaminants are more likely to be removed.
But Consumer Labs has reported that their tests of fish oil supplements have found none to contain mercury, although most may contain trace levels of PCBs, which they say, can’t be fully avoided since PCBs are found in water everywhere.
And a 2014 nutritional-toxicological assessment of dietary supplements that included different brands of fish oil and krill oil, found that none of the products, at their highest recommended dosage, came close to fulfilling tolerable daily intake levels of toxins analyzed, including PCBs.
How to manage high cholesterol now
There are currently two types of prescription omega-3 supplements available…
One includes both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) fatty acids. The other only includes EPA fatty acids.
Researchers from this review don’t recommend one type over the other. Both were able to lower triglycerides by 20 to 30 percent. Of course, unless you have triglycerides above 500 mg/dL, there’s no chance you’re getting prescription omega-3 supplements from your doctor. But that may be helpful to know in case you decide to buy a supplement
If you don’t decide to take a supplement but you still want to make lifestyle changes that improve your cholesterol levels, eat fish at least two times per week. Salmon, mackerel, herring and albacore tuna are all good choices because they’re filled with omega-3s. You can also exercise more. Exercising moderately for 150 minutes per week can lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
- Prescription omega-3 fatty acid medications effectively lower high triglycerides — MedicalXpress
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids for the Management of Hypertriglyceridemia: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association — Circulation
- Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia) — American Heart Association
- Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides? — Verywell Health
- Is Fish Oil Safe — Consumerlabs.com
- A Nutritional-Toxicological Assessment of Antarctic Krill Oil versus Fish Oil Dietary Supplements — National Institutes of Health