The American Heart Association (AHA) endorses using prescription-strength omega-3 fatty acids for managing high triglycerides—fats that circulate in the blood. Triglyceride levels of 200 mg/dL or higher are associated with coronary heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). In a science advisory, the AHA reports that 4 grams a day of a prescription omega-3 that contains the fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or of EPA alone can reduce high triglyceride levels by 20 to 30 percent. The advisory was published online earlier this year in Circulation.
WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW: Over-the-counter omega-3s (usually found in fish oil capsules) haven’t been approved or reviewed by the FDA and shouldn’t be used in place of prescription products. Prescription omega-3s can produce side effects such as a fishy taste and mild stomach upset, so take them with food.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Making dietary changes, controlling your weight, exercising, and limiting alcohol can help reduce your triglyceride levels and should be tried before drug therapy. Your doctor should also rule out any secondary cause of high triglycerides, such as hypothyroidism (an overactive thyroid) and poorly managed type 2 diabetes.