Cholesterol/LipidsDiet-NutritionOmega-3 Fatty Acids

Remember to change your diet when you start taking omega 3 capsules

Dr. Jennifer Malinowski, who is Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and Nursing in Pennsylvania, reports a patient who experienced an 75% increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol while taking 9 grams of fish oil capsules per day to lower her triglyceride levels. Obviously, it’s not desirable for LDL to go up.

What can we learn from this patient’s experience?

First, here’s how her lipid levels changed from before to during treatment, and at 6 weeks after stopping fish oil capsules.

  • Triglycerides: 278 to 146 (48% decrease) to 334 mg/dL, respectively.
  • LDL cholesterol; 106 to 186 (75% increase) to 143 mg/dL, respectively.

Dr. Maggie Covington, who is Clinical Assistant Professor in Family and Community Medicine at the University of Maryland says, “A review of human studies concluded that approximately 4 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids reduced serum triglyceride concentrations by 25% to 30%, [but] increased serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by 5% to 10%.”

That doesn’t account for all of the increase in LDL cholesterol recorded in this patient. Dr. Malinowski suggests that some people, while taking fish oil to lower triglycerides, might experience changes in their liver metabolism that lead to the formation of larger LDL cholesterol particles.

OK, but for the average person, I think Dr. Covington has the bottom line.

“It is especially important to note that if omega 3 fatty acids are only added to your diet without lowering the amounts of saturated fat in the diet, it is likely that LDL cholesterol levels will not improve, and may actually increase.”

“In other words, omega 3 fatty acids should be seen as a healthful substitute for saturated fat in the diet.”

7/6/07 21:22 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.