Fish oil – cholesterol

I am a naturopathic physician with nearly 20 years of experience developing breakthrough nutritional products.I also have extensive television and radio experience and have lectured widely to health professionals, the military and the public on all aspects of natural health.

Dr Myers, an expert who holds a doctorate in naturopathic medicine

Stephen Fry in my surgery during the making of the BBC TV program

Me with Lord Bragg, accepting my "Champion of the Year" award

After graduating, I was recognised as being the 'best young neurosurgeon in Britain'

Cholesterol has had some pretty bad press over the years resulting in a lot of fear and as to whether we are consuming too much cholesterol in our diet. The truth is that only part of our cholesterol comes from our diet, the liver produces the rest.  Cholesterol can only be found in animal products such as meat, eggs etc. However, it is still possible to have high cholesterol levels without eating food that contains cholesterol.

Eating foods that are high in saturated fats or hydrogenated fats causes the liver to produce more cholesterol so even if a product says it is low in cholesterol, you should still check the amount and type of fat it contains.  Not all fats are bad, just as not all cholesterol is bad.  Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can help to reduce the level of bad cholesterol in the body.  Also, the Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil are reported to reduce triglyceride levels and increase the level of good cholesterol.

There are basically two types of cholesterol, one more beneficial than the other. High-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol is the good one as it would appear to travel through your body picking up all the extra low density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol on its way, and transporting it to your liver to be processed.

Ideally, you would want your HDL cholesterol levels to be very high and your LDL cholesterol levels, the bad one, to be as low as possible.  High levels of LDL cholesterol is linked to heart disease as excess levels of this cholesterol attaches itself to your artery walls where over time it can build up to a dangerously high level.

But there is another factor to be brought into the equation. High triglyceride levels are also linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Some research indicates that if your triglyceride levels are excessively high, then LDL cholesterol, or the bad cholesterol, is much more dangerous.

Similarly, if your ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol is too high you also have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.  However, if your triglyceride levels are low, then LDL cholesterol poses less of a threat.  This could go some way to explaining why some people with heart disease have normal LDL cholesterol levels and others with high levels of LDL cholesterol are seemingly healthy, it could all be in the level of triglycerides.

Fish oil can play a vital part in reducing the risk posed by high levels of LDL cholesterol.  Not only does it contain high quantities of the essential Omega 3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, research also shows that taking fish oil on a daily basis can lower triglyceride levels, sometimes by as much as 30%.

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