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How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Lower Your Lipids?

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Updated February 01, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Lower Your Lipids?
Answer:

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in supplements, certain foods (such as fatty fish and nuts), and in the prescription drug Lovaza.

Omega-3 fatty acids primarily lower triglyceride levels. But they also lower your other lipids, too. How do they do this?

The mechanism of action by which omega-3 fatty acids lower lipids is not completely understood. However, it is thought that omega-3 fatty acids can lower the amount of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) made in the liver, which, in turn, also lowers triglyceride levels. The reduced amount of triglycerides made in the body may also be due to the fact that omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, make poor templates to make triglycerides. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids appear to interact with certain proteins in the body that help in producing triglycerides, including acyl-CoA:1,2-diacylglycerol acyltransferase and lipoprotein lipase.

Because of the healthy benefits that omega-3 fatty acids have on lipid levels, there is ongoing research being conducted to determine how omega-3 fatty acids work and the additional benefits they may have on heart disease.

Sources:

Dipiro JT, Talbert RL. Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiological Approach, 7th ed 2008.

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