Prescription omega-3 fatty acids can effectively lower high triglycerides, according to a science advisory from the American Heart Association (AHA) published in Circulation.
Triglycerides are fats that circulate in the blood. Triglyceride levels of 200 mg/dL or higher are associated with coronary heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
In the advisory, the AHA reports that 4 grams a day of a prescription omega-3 that contains the fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or EPA alone can reduce high triglyceride levels by 20 to 30 percent. The advisory was based on a review of evidence from 17 randomized, controlled clinical trials. Prescription omega-3 products include Lovaza, which contains EPA and DHA, and Vascepa, which contains only EPA.
Over-the-counter omega-3s (usually found in fish oil capsules) haven’t been approved or reviewed by the FDA and shouldn’t be used in place of prescription products. Prescription omega-3s can produce side effects such as a fishy taste and mild stomach upset, so take them with food.
What you should do
Making dietary changes, controlling your weight, exercising, and limiting alcohol can help reduce your triglyceride levels and should be tried before drug therapy. Your doctor should also rule out any secondary cause of high triglycerides, such as hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or poorly managed type 2 diabetes.
This article first appeared in UC Berkeley Health After 50.
Also see Big News About Prescription Omega-3s.