Cholesterol/LipidsOmega-3 Fatty Acids

Issues in lowering triglycerides with omega-3 fatty acids

Medscape just published an article on the benefits of lowering triglycerides, and the use of omega-3 fatty acids. Read it if you’re so inclined, or if you’re an MD and need the continuing education credits. If not, here’s the take-home info.

One pitfall in the successful control of triglycerides with omega-3 fatty acids is that patients may take an insufficient quantity. For example, most people can’t eat enough omega-3 fatty acids from diet alone to meet the daily recommendations.

An alternative is to take over-the-counter dietary supplements, but the amount of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) varies among brands. A supplement that contains 1000 mg of fish oil frequently contains only 300 mg EPA/DHA. Therefore a patient taking 4 capsules may be receiving only 1200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. And because these products aren?t regulated, there are potential problems with purity.

Another approach is to take prescription omega-3 acid ethyl esters, which have the advantage of pharmaceutical regulation and consistent amounts of EPA (465 mg) and DHA (375 mg) per capsule. The higher potency of the prescription formulation means that the therapeutic daily dose of 3.6 grams/day omega-3 fatty acids can be achieved by taking 4 capsules daily compared with 12 or more capsules daily of over-the-counter dietary supplements.

The bottom line?
Omega-3 fatty acid lowers triglycerides. The prescription product has the advantage of higher potency and regulatory oversight that should guarantee high quality control.

Over-the-counter omega-3 fatty acid products are available. Before buying one, you might want to check out for the results of their tests on 42 products. Finally, pay attention to the EPA/DHA levels in the product you use to ensure you are taking the right number of capsules.

9/25/06 22:54 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.