high cholesterol

A recent study from China examines the efficacy of fish oil-based omega-3 supplements in controlling high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure.

High cholesterol and elevated blood pressure are major precursor conditions for serious cardiovascular events such as a heart attack and stroke. While these conditions do increase in many people with age, it is certainly beneficial to do all that one can to alleviate them. One popular method of doing this is by taking supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oils.

A group of researchers in China investigated whether omega-3 fish oil-derived supplements actually reduce high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. Their study was recently published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease.

Participants Given Either Omega-3 or Soybean Oil

The study involved 97 participants who met the following criteria:

  1. Healthy
  2. 50 years of age or older
  3. Having either:
    a) symptoms of elevated blood pressure, or
    b) a history of elevated blood pressure, or
    c) a history of elevated blood cholesterol

Half of the participants were given Omega3Q10 capsules, while the remaining participants were given a control capsule made up of soybean oil.  Both capsules were supplied by GardaVita® Inc., of Costa Mesa, California, USA.  Each participant took one capsule with a meal, twice a day, for 12 weeks.  The study ran from early October 2013 to early January 2014.

No Significant Differences in Performance

The results showed that there were no significant differences in the blood cholesterol levels between the omega-3 and control groups.  Both supplements significantly reduced both total cholesterol and LDL-C (“bad cholesterol”), and increased HDL-C (“good cholesterol”).  However, there was a slightly greater reduction of TC and LDL-C in the Omega-3 group.

With respect to blood pressure, the results were similar to those seen with blood cholesterol.  There were no significant differences in the resulting blood pressure levels between the omega-3 and control groups, and the omega-3 supplements and the control both lowered both systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP).  However, only the omega-3 group produced a significant DBP reduction.

The researchers noted some limitations to the study.  For example, the mix of ingredients in both the omega-3 supplement and the control meant that the study was not ideal at determining the exact effect of omega-3 on the participants’ health parameters.  As well, many of the participants were using anti-hypertension and other drugs that again made it hard to determine the exact impact of omega-3 on their cardiovascular health.

Fish Oil-Based Omega-3 Supplements Can Help, but More Research is Needed

FIsh oil-based omega-3 supplements can be effective in reducing elevated blood cholesterol and elevated blood pressure in older adults with these conditions.  As well, such supplements may be superior to soybean oil in reducing LDL cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure. More research needs to be done, however, before one can state a definitive superiority and efficacy for this supplement.

Written by Raymond Quan, MASc, MBA

Reference: Shen et al. “Effects of 12-week supplementation of marine Omega-3 PUFA-based formulation Omega3Q10 in older adults with prehypertension and/or elevated blood cholesterol.” Lipids in Health and Disease (2017) 16:253. DOI 10.1186/s12944-017-0617-0

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