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Triglyceride buster

Posted Jun 16 2009 5:32pm
Two weeks ago, Daniel started with a triglyceride level of 3100 mg/dl, a dangerous level that had potential to damage his pancreas. The inflammatory injury incurred could leave him with type I diabetes and inability to digest foods, since the insulin-producing capacity and the enzyme producing capacity of the pancreas are lost.

Daniel added 3600 mg of omega-3s per day. Within 10 days, his triglycerides dropped nearly 2000 mg to just over 1100 mg/dl --still too high, but an incredible start.

The power of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil to reduce triglycerides is illustrated most graphically by people with a condition called "familial hypertriglyceridemia" that is responsible for triglyceride levels of 500, 1000, even several thousand milligrams. That's what Daniel has. Given appropriate doses of omega-3s, triglycerides drop hundreds, even thousands, of milligrams.

No question: Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are the best tool available for reduction of triglycerides. The effect is dose-dependent, i.e., the more you take, the greater the triglyceride reduction.

How omega-3s exerts this effect is unclear, though there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s suppress several nuclear receptors involved in triglyceride (VLDL) production and increase the expression or activity of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that clears triglycerides from the blood.

I am continually surprised at the number of people with high triglycerides who are still treated with a fibrate drug, like Tricor, or a statin drug, when fish oil--widely available, essentially free of side-effects, with a proven cardiovascular risk-reducing track record--should clearly be the first choice by a long stretch.

Among its many benefits, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil also:

Reduce matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) --Two fractions of MMPs, MMP-2 and MMP-9, are inflammatory enzymes present in atherosclerotic plaque that are suspected to trigger plaque "rupture." Omega-3s have been shown to reduce both forms of MMP.

Block uptake of lipids in the artery wall --Suggested by a study in mice.

Modify postprandial responses --In the first few hours after eating (the "postprandial" period), a flood of digestive byproducts of a meal are present in the bloodstream. While research exploring postprandial effects is still in its infancy, it is clear that omega-3 fatty acids have the capacity to favorably modify postprandial patterns. One common surrogate measure for postprandial abnormalities is intermediate-density lipoprotein, or IDL, that we obtain in fasting blood through lipoprotein panels like NMR and VAP. With sufficient omega-3s alone, IDL is completely eliminated.

Unfortunately, most of my colleagues, if they even think to use omega-3s, choose to use the prescription form, Lovaza. Indeed, several representatives from AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical outfit now distributing this miserably overpriced product, frequently barge their way into my office poking fun at our use of nutritional supplements instead of the prescription Lovaza. "But insurance covers it in most cases!" they plead. "And your patients will know that they're getting the real product, not some fake. And they'll have to take fewer capsules!"

I never use Lovaza to reduce triglycerides, even in familial hypertriglyceridemia--the FDA-approved indication for Lovaza--and have not yet seen any failures, only successes.
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