Saturday, January 26, 2008

HDL, Triglycerides and the wonders of Omega-3


Two of the things my doctor told me to focus on was increasing my HDL (the good cholesterol), which is too low, and lowering my triglycerides. She recommended olive oil, almonds, fish oil supplements and exercise for the HDL, and watching carbs for the triglycerides.

I never understood the different between HDL and LDL until I got Dr. Weil's Healthy Heart Kit. The HDL carries the excess LDL back to the liver, so you need a lot of it. Women should have an HDL level of at least 50, and mine was only 35.

Along with exercising and losing weight, ways of increasing HDL include taking niacin, quitting smoking, avoiding trans-fat (reduces HDL!), having 1-2 drinks of alcohol per day, adding more fiber to your diet, taking fish oil supplements, reducing stress,

Triglycerides store fat and are used by the body to create energy and serve as building blocks for cells. Triglycerides come from the fats in food but also are made in the liver from carbohydrates and proteins. High levels of triglycerides in the blood can be a serious health problem and a risk factor for heart disease. For most people, a normal level of triglycerides would be under 150. I think mine was 155. Looking at that number along with my other numbers, lifestyle and family history, puts me at high risk of diabetes and heart disease.


The AHA recommends eating fish twice a week for omega-3 fatty acids. They recommend eating tofu and other forms of soybeans, canola, walnut and flaxseed, and their oils. These contain alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), which can become omega-3 fatty acid in the body. They recommend fish oil supplements for people with heart disease or who need to lower triglycerides.

Fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids -- eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. Benefits attributed to omega 3 include: reduces risk of heart attack, stimulates blood circulation, lowers blood pressure (I am also borderline there), significantly reduces triglycerides, reduces risk of stroke and raises HDL at least slightly. I think those things are pretty well agreed on. But in addition, omega 3's may also relieve or improve depression, anxiety, back pain, arthritis, inflammation, joint pain, ADHD, asthma, ecxema, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, painful menstruation, reduce body fat and prevent cancer and eye disease.


I was already taking a fish oil supplement, but only one a day. And I wondered what the difference was between my Rite Aid brand fish oil and Husband's prescription fish oil.

The main thing to look for in fish oil supplements is the amount of EPA and DHA, and making sure it is refined to remove toxins and such. One of the best brands of OTC appears to be Dr. Sears' Zone Omega Rx. I would like to take the Zone one, but it's $50 a month and I am not sure whether it is worth that. That's not right. I do think it's worth that. But I'm not sure I can justify spending that. So I'm taking the $9 health food store brand. I just compared the Omega Rx to the prescription Lovaza fish oil and it has the same amount of EPA/DHA.

The IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) has a voluntary program where they will test fish oil and rate it and they have a list of who has received their 5-star ratings. his category is specifically for ultra-refined super concentrate fish oils with a minimum 60 per cent combined EPA/DHA concentration and is based on Nutrasource's 5 Star Rating Program. A Star is awarded for each of five areas:

Star 1 - Product Passes All CRN/WHO Testing Categories
Star 2 - Product Tests Show Minimum 60 per cent EPA plus DHA combined concentration
Star 3 - Oxidation Level Less Than 75 per cent of CRN Standard
Star 4 - PCB Levels Less Than 50 per cent of CRN Standard
Star 5 - Dioxin and Furan Levels Less Than 50 per cent of WHO Standard

The Zone's Omega Rx is one of the brands that has a 5-star rating. Dr. Andrew Weil also sells fish oil supplements and his have the same rating.

This page has a list of brands that have received the 5-star rating:

PLEASE NOTE taking fish oil in very high doses (over 3 grams i.e. 3000 mg.) can be harmful.

More Info/Sources:


  1. Anonymous12:00 AM

    Wow thanks for the good info! I have been searching for Fish oil info for hours, but you really hit a lot on just one page...

    bery helpful, thanks!!!

  2. Anonymous9:41 AM

    Saw the article but recent research shows that prescription Lovaza is absobed faster and more efficiently that regular fish oil. That is the difference. Healtfully you can not take enought otc fish oil to match absorption of prescription. If otc is only choice it would be better than none at all.