omega 3 for cholesterol

Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Omega 3 fatty acids are excellent to reduce your cholesterol and triglycerides levels. They are found in fish oil, nuts, seeds, grains and other plant products.

Fish oil and Omega 3 improves your overall cardiovascular health and heart conditions. You can include them in your daily diet or take supplements to keep yourself healthy and fit.

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Why are Omega 3 Fatty Acids Considered Healthy Fats?

It is generally believed that fatty foods tend to increase cholesterol levels. Other reasons for high cholesterol are genetic, aging and sedentary lifestyle.

High cholesterol levels generally do not produce any symptoms so they remain undetected until a medical blood test is done.

For a very long period it was assumed that high cholesterol levels are the main cause of arteriosclerosis. However some recent findings show that that's not true.


While debate over high cholesterol continues, it still makes sense to keep the cholesterol levels within the prescribed safe limits naturally. This scientific debate has taken away the urgency of reducing high cholesterol levels through medication.

Certain types of fats are the main cause of increasing cholesterol through dietary channels, it is important to stay away from those fats and consume good fats. You can't completely ignore fats as fats are important for your overall growth and development.

Certain fats like polyunsaturated fats are good for your health.

Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, so they don't increase cholesterol and they are good for your cardiovascular health.

Research Work on Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Omega 3 fatty acids are scientifically well researched food components.

Various scientific researches have shown these oils reducing triglycerides and cholesterol. Most studies have shown higher impact on triglycerides reduction with marginal or negligible reduction in cholesterol.

Different sources of omega 3 fatty acids have different impacts on cholesterol and triglycerides due to their different chemical compounds.

Omega 3 fatty acids are mainly 3 types.

They are ALA, DHA and EPA.

1. Alpha linolenic acid (ALA)

Found in a variety of plant products particularly seeds like flax seeds and chia seeds. They are also available as supplements.

ALA essential fatty acids which means your body cannot produce them, therefore you have to consume them through diet or supplements.

Your body can convert some of ALA to DHA and EPA in small amounts.

2. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

DHA is beneficial in helping in lowering high blood pressure, arthritis diabetes, cancers, vision problems and Alzheimer's.

DHA is found in seafoods like fatty fishes and algae. Nuts like walnuts and almonds also contain some DHA.

3. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

EPA reduces inflammation and depression. It also reduces hot flashes in menopause women.,

EPA is generally found in fatty fishes like herring, salmon, tuna and shrimps. Animal products like dairy and meat also have some amounts of EPA.

Researchers have found that

  • Omega 3 fatty acids reduce triglycerides. This is the substance that clogs arteries and cause cardiovascular health problems and diabetes.
  • People with high triglycerides level get the highest reduction
  • Fish oils have shown better results than plant based Omega 3 fatty acids
  • They don't cause much difference in both LDL and HDL levels.

Almost every research has shown Omega 3 lowering triglycerides but only some researchers have found marginal reduction in cholesterol. More research is required to establish its cholesterol lowering benefits.

Other Benefits of Omega 3 on Heart and Overall Health

There are many other benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids in addition to lowering triglycerides. Some of the most common ones are listed below.

  • Helps in maintaining normal heartbeats
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreases risks of sudden death in people with cardiovascular diseases
  • Reduces inflammation and curbs the stiffness in joints in rheumatoid arthritis patients
  • Reduces depression and symptoms of bipolar disorder
  • Improve the symptoms of ADHD
  • Protects against Alzheimer's disease and dementia

Fish Oil or Plant Based Omega 3 Fatty Acid?

For your overall health DHA and EPA are more beneficial.

Though your body converts ALA into DHA and EPA, its conversion is very low.

Therefore in order to get the name imum benefits from the Omega 3 fatty acids, you have to go for Fish oils rather than plant based omega 3.


Having said that, it is important to understand that your consumption of plant based omega 3 is not a waste. It is just not enough to get the full benefits.

Whenever possible try to get your Omega 3 fatty acids directly from food rather than from supplement. Fishes like herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna are your best sources for DHA and EPA.

If you don't eat fish then algae oil has a good DHA level.

Fish oil has both EPA and DHA.

What are the Recommended Levels?

According to NIH-office of Dietary Supplements following are the recommended amount of ALA Omega 3- fatty acids daly. Though there are no published recommendations for DHA and EPA, U.S. Food and Drug administration recommends a maximum limit of 3g/ day of EPA and DHA combined as higher doses can impact immune functionality.

Life StageAmount
Birth to 12 months* 0.5 g
Children 1-3 years 0.7 g
Children 4-8 years 0.9 g
Boys 9-13 years 1.2 g
Girls 9-13 years 1.0 g
Teen boys 14-18 years 1.6 g
Teen girls 14-18 years 1.1 g
Men 1.6 g
Women 1.1 g
Pregnant teens and women 1.4 g
Breastfeeding teens and women 1.3 g

*As total omega-3s. All other values are for ALA alone. ( Source National Institute of Health - Office of Dietary Supplements)

Tips and Precautions

Take the following precautions to get the best out of omega 3.

  • Beware that fish oils can cause indigestion and gas
  • Don't consume more than 3 grams of omega 3 daily as it may cause many health problems.
  • Check with your doctor before taking supplements as they may interfere with certain medications like blood thinners and others.
  • Don't exceed the higher limits of Omega 3 as it may impact immune functionality.

Bottomline is, omega 3 fatty acids are good for your overall health. Include them in your daily diet. If required take supplements.