A recent CNN news report stated “A new advisory from the American Heart Association says that prescription omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce very high triglyceride levels by 20 to 30%, and the medications can be used safely in conjunction with statins.” (Read news report) Statins are prescription medications which help lower your cholesterol. Learn more about satin medications.
Triglycerides are fats that circulate in your blood (like cholesterol) and may contribute to a hardening or narrowing or your arteries, which puts you at an increased risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Elevated triglyceride levels are common in people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
Simply put, omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats you get from eating certain foods. This family of essential fatty acids is not produced by our bodies.
There are three types of essential fatty acids:
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) – found mainly in plants (e.g. nuts and seeds)
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – found in algae and animal based foods
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) – found in algae and animal based foods
Experts from the American Heart Association reviewed 17 clinical trials involving patients with high triglyceride levels. Patients treated with 4 grams of prescription omega-3 fatty acids daily saw improvement in their triglyceride levels regardless of the brand of omega-3 prescribed and regardless of whether they were also taking a statin drug to lower their cholesterol.
There are currently 4 brands of prescription omega-3 available in the US: Lovaza, Vascepa, Epanova and Omtryg.
They all contain omega-3 acid ethyl esters but are not considered interchangeable. Lovaza and Epanova is available as 1 g liquid filled gel capsule, Vascepa as either 0.5 g or 1 g capsule, and Omtryg as 1.2 g capsule.
The recommended dose is 4 grams per day, to be taken in divided doses with food in order to reduce the potential side effect of an upset stomach
There are currently no generic equivalents available to any of the prescription omega-3s.
Brand name Omacor 1 g capsule available out of the UK is equivalent to US Lovaza.
There are several important health benefits from omega-3 fatty acids including:
There have been some studies stating that omega-3s may be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of ADHD, depression, and asthma, and it may also be beneficial in protection against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. More research is needed, however, to prove the effectiveness in these cases.
There are several foods that are high in natural omega-3 fatty acids including:
There are different types of omega-3 supplements. Some contain fish oil and some contain algal oil, which is created from algae. The benefit of algal oil is that it does not contain any cholesterol and does not have the fishy smell that some fish oil supplements have. Both fish oil and algal supplements are natural sources of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Fish oil has both EPA and DHA, while algae oil only has DHA.
Non-Prescription Omega-3 Supplements
While studies have shown that taking an omega-3 supplement is beneficial, if you are currently taking statin medications to reduce your cholesterol you should speak to your doctor about your need to take omega-3 fatty acid supplements, just as you should speak to your doctor about taking any other supplement or prescription medication.
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This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).