AHA Advisory: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Effective In Lowering Triglycerides, Risks

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Monday, September 9, 2019 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2019 - 7:42am
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In 2002, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to combat the buildup in the blood of triglycerides, the main ingredients in body fats.

Now, 15 years after prescription omega-3s hit the market, the group has updated its advisory.

The findings appear in the AHA journal Circulation.

The authors reviewed research on the prescription omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA.

"We did something that hadn't really been done before, and that is we looked at high triglycerides and very high triglycerides separately and the clinical evidence for each of those," said lead author Ann Skulas-Ray, director of the Food, Bioactives and Health Lab at the University of Arizona.

Studies showed improvements in cases of high and very high triglycerides, regardless of individual characteristics such as age, body mass index or use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

The study defined high triglycerides, also known by the medical name hypertriglyceridemia, as a score of 200–499 milligrams per deciliter. Very high triglycerides measured 500 or more mg/dL.

Studies also showed reduced risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, which arises from the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other plaque-related substances on artery walls.

Although EPA and DHA proved beneficial for people with high triglycerides, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has currently approved and indicated them only for people with very high triglycerides.

Doctors can prescribe them for patents with high triglycerides as "off-label" prescriptions, however.

The advisory also established the effective prescription dosage for omega-3s at 4 grams per day, compared to the 2002 AHA recommendation of 2-4 g/d.

The AHA advocates patients make diet and lifestyle changes before making use of prescription drugs, however.

Such changes include losing weight, exercising, reducing alcohol intake and adopting a diet consisting of fewer refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, fewer saturated fats and trans fats, and more seafood high in omega-3s, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna.