We have all learned how fish oil with EPA and DHA are beneficial throughout the body. There are many interviews here on HealthQuestPodcast.com that explore these benefits. As with most nutrients the is also another side to the story. We know that omega-3 from fish oil is very effective for supporting a healthy triglyceride level in the blood. Triglyceride and LDL cholesterol are considered to be the most important measure of lipid health and the goal is to maintain both in healthy ranges. However we know that many of us have elevated triglycerides and/or cholesterol that are not optimal. Fish oil has been used for years to help normalize triglycerides. It works very well for many.
Here is the other side to the story. Some people experience an increase in LDL cholesterol when taking EPA + DHA fish oil. It is this rise in LDL that has doctors and researchers puzzled. Why is this the case and more importantly how can this outcome be influenced by the nutrients we take. Again, we can look to the science for answers.
Researchers wanted to know if either EPA alone or DHA alone as nutritional intervention would provide different results. The research has shown that EPA alone will lower triglycerides without increasing LDL. These effects were seen in several studies and so now there is growing consensus that EPA alone is more appropriate for some.
It is important to note that this is specific recommendation for those who had an increase in LDL after taking fish oil supplements. This is a specific case that does not apply to everyone. Most people will do better with fish oil that contains both EPA and DHA because of the benefits of DHA. Normally you want both fatty acids. But if you are one of those people who had elevated LDL after taking fish oil, then this is a viable alternative. If this is you, then you should talk to your doctor about using EPA alone. With trial and error and effective monitoring you and your doctor should be able to fine tune your nutritional program to provide even better results.
What do the Studies Say?
“In studies that directly compared DHA and EPA, mean placebo-corrected triglyceride levels decreased by 22.4% and 15.6%, respectively. In head-to-head comparisons, DHA increased LDL cholesterol by 2.6% whereas EPA decreased LDL cholesterol by 0.7%. In trials comparing each agent alone, 10 of the 14 monotherapy trials with DHA showed increases in LDL cholesterol ranging from 5.4% to 16.0% vs control, while none of the EPA trials showed any increase. The changes in LDL-cholesterol levels significantly correlated with baseline triglyceride levels for DHA-treated patients, but this was not observed for patients treated with EPA, the group reported.” Source: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/743305#vp_2
In this interview, nutritionist Jolie Root will discuss these studies and the important implications for those with triglycerides and LDL issues. It is always important to remember that nutrients are not drugs and drugs are not nutrients. When we explore the benefits of nutrients such as EPA, we are looking for the benefits of nutrition and health. Our bodies are made to utilize nutrients such as EPA to maintain healthy structures and functions in the body. It is also important to remember that we are all unique and we must each find that nutritional program that is right for us. The best program is the one that works best for you. That is your process of discovery. Pay attention to the science and seek to understand the distinctions between different nutrients. The more you know, the better choices you will make. Better choices lead to better outcomes.
About Jolie Root
Jolie is the Senior Nutritionist/Educator at Carlson Laboratories. She began as a natural products retailer who evolved into a career in education in the health sciences. She is a nutritionist and a nurse. She understands both the science and the practical application of good nutrition for health. Jolie hosts a weekly radio show called Food for Thought which is heard in New York, Florida and online.