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Can Fish Oil Supplements Reduce Cholesterol? What You Need to Know

can fish oil supplements reduce cholesterolCholesterol is one of the greatest health concerns of our modern times. In fact, cholesterol has been so demonized that some are surprised to learn that we actually need it to live. Among the natural ways of managing cholesterol is taking fish oil pills. But can fish oil supplements reduce cholesterol?

First, let’s briefly take a brief look at cholesterol. Almost anyone with basic knowledge about health knows that there are two types of cholesterol.

One type of cholesterol is known as LDL (low density lipoprotein) which is the bad cholesterol (think “lousy”). The other is HDL (high density lipoprotein), or good cholesterol. Simple, right? Not so fast.

As researchers continue to study cholesterol, they are coming up with some interesting, even surprising findings. In a previous post, we talked about a Harvard study that found that good cholesterol may not be as good as previously thought. Good cholesterol, according to the researchers, comes in different shapes and sizes, some of which are not beneficial.

Even bad cholesterol is not just about LDL anymore. There is also VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) as well as chylomicrons.[1] In all, there are four known types of lipoproteins. We shall discuss these in a little more detail in a future post.

As if we are not confused enough already, there are also intermediate density lipoproteins (IDL). These are somewhat similar to LDL or bad cholesterol.[2]

So, Can Fish Oil Supplements Reduce Cholesterol?

The reason we touched on the types of cholesterol is because understanding this could help as better answer the question, “can fish oil help cholesterol?”.

Many people with elevated bad cholesterol levels are seeking natural ways to lower it, and possibly avoid a lifetime of medications and accompanying side effects. In fact, a recent study found that many people don’t stay on prescription medications for cholesterol, also called statins. (See: Who Should Be Taking Cholesterol Lowering Drugs?)

One of the natural treatment many doctors recommend or prescribe is taking fish oil supplements. This is because omega-3 essential fatty acids found in fish oil have been found to significantly reduce blood triglyceride levels.[3] These are a type of fat found in your blood.

While studies indicate that fish oil may also help reduce cholesterol levels, it is important they you choose the right of supplement, as we shall see shortly.

Finding the Right Fish Oil Supplement

According to a recent research, not all fish oil supplements may help reduce cholesterol levels. The research supports one of our long-held views about choice of omega-3 supplements. Basically, the quality of your chosen supplement matters.

A study published the British Journal of Medicine on the efficacy of fresh versus oxidized fish oil supplements found fresh fish oil to be most effective in lowering cholesterol levels.

During the study, participants were randomly placed into 3 groups. One group was given 8 grams a day of fresh high-quality fish oil supplements. The second group was given 8 grams a day of oxidized fish oil supplements. The third group was given 8 grams high-oleic sunflower oil (HOSO). This was for a period of 7 weeks.

Blood samples for determination of cholesterol levels were collected at the start of the study and at the end. The study examined levels of HDL, LDL, VLDL, and IDL.

The results showed that there was significant decrease in levels of IDL as well as LDL (bad cholesterol) in the fresh fish oil group. Levels increased in the oxidized and HOSO groups.

This indicates that to get cholesterol-lowering benefits of fish oil, choosing fresh supplements is extremely important. This means whole manufacturing process from the catch to packaging and preservation.

The antioxidant vitamin E is the most commonly used natural preservative used to prevent oxidation of fish oil. Krill oil already naturally contains this vitamin and therefore no addition is necessary. However, as with fish oil, the quality of your chosen krill oil supplement is also important.

There is more than this when it comes to choosing the right omega-3 supplement. You also should pay attention to amounts of the active ingredients such as DHA and EPA. For more on this see our post, The Truth About The Health Benefits Of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.

We have already done the homework for you as far as choice of omega-3 supplements goes. Click here to check out top quality products.


[1] University of Washington: Cholesterol, Lipoproteins and the Liver

[2] Wikipedia: Intermediate-density lipoprotein

[3] ACJN: Dose-response effects of omega-3 fatty acids on triglycerides…

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