Impact of High Triglyceride Levels
Hypertriglyceridemia or high levels of triglycerides (TGs) in blood greatly increase the risk for heart disease.
- High TG levels are a causative factor for small, dense LDL (cholesterol in low-density lipoproteins or the ′bad′ cholesterol) particles that are more atherogenic than larger LDL particles.
- High TG levels reduce levels of HDL or ′good′ cholesterol.
- High TG levels may unfavourably affect the coagulation system and increase the danger of thrombosis (clot formation). An increase in the risk of thrombosis increases the risk of cardiac events.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and High Triglyceride Levels
Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils markedly decrease TGs and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) levels in blood and help correct other risk factors for heart disease. The hypotriglyceridemic effect of fish oil appears to be caused mainly by blocking the production of VLDL-triglyceride, but an additional, independent effect upon the breakdown of VLDL molecules into simpler ones cannot be ruled out. They also increase HDL cholesterol. A unique effect of omega-3 fatty acids is to hasten the clearance of fat-containing particles from the blood following meals. This remarkable fat-clearing ability has important implications for prevention of heart disease. According to scientists, this rise in blood fat levels following a meal, known as postprandial hyperlipidemia, may be a potent contributor to atherosclerosis and thus to a heart attack.
Omega-3 fatty acids are required in higher doses to reduce elevated TG levels (2-4 g/day). A unique effect of omega-3 fatty acids is to hasten the clearance of fat-containing particles from the blood following meals. This remarkable fat-clearing ability has important implications for prevention of heart disease.
Fish oil supplementation raises HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) concentrations (+3%) and, particularly in patients with hypertriglyceridemia. They also lower the proportion of small dense LDL-C particles. The rise in LDL cholesterol of up to 5% seen with fish oil consumption is due to increase in LDL particle size i.e. LDL-C concentration may slightly increase but without appreciable change in the number of circulating LDL particles. In persons with hypertriglyceridemia that is resistant to treatment, fish oil supplements (more than 3 g/day of DHA and EPA) can lower the serum TGs by as much as 50% or more.