Is There A Healthier Way To Improve Your Cholesterol Levels?
By: Jayson Hunter RD, CSCS
Before we get to how Omega 3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA may improve cholesterol levels lets discuss something even more important.
1 in 5 people are affected by this and you may be that one person if not now in the near future. It is called Metabolic Syndrome. Some studies estimate the prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in the US to be up to 25% of the population. That is 1 in 4 people.
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical symptoms and issues such as increased blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, abnormal or high cholesterol levels and generally excess body fat around the waist or belly area.
This all increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and of course diabetes. Usually if someone has metabolic syndrome they most likely to get diabetes in the near future if they don't make significant changes to their lifestyle and habits.
We also know that omega 3 fats have been heavily studied over the years because of the numerous benefits that it provides. As far back as the 70s scientists noticed that those who consume a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids had a very low rate of heart attacks.
There have been thousands of studies since then learning about these powerful fats and how they can benefit us. One such recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition hypothesized that if someone ate a low fat, high complex carb diet, but supplemented with fish oil that this may affect the participants cholesterol levels in patients who had metabolic syndrome.
The scientists studied 117 metabolic syndrome patients and randomly assigned them to 1 of 5 diets for 12 weeks.
1. Diet high in saturated fat
2. Diet high in monounsaturated fat
3. diet low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates
4. diet low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates and also supplemented with omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)
At the end of the 12 weeks both those who consumed the diet high in monounsaturated fat and the diet that was low fat/high in carbs and supplemented with the omega 3 fatty acids had lower triglyceride levels than the other groups.
Triglycerides play a key role in your overall cholesterol number and tend to be higher when you eat high carbohydrates, are insulin resistant and have metabolic syndrome. What is interesting that even though they ate a high carbohydrate diet which with metabolic syndrome would make their triglyceride levels worse the omega 3 fats seemed to lower it.
It will be interesting when they test this theory for a longer length of time and see if the triglyceride levels stay low.
Jimenez Gomez Y, Marin C, Peerez Martinez P, et al. A low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diet supplemented with long-chain (n-3) fatty acids alters the postprandial lipoprotein profile in patients with metabolic syndrome. J Nutr. Sep2010;140(9):1595-601.
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