Fish oil is one of the most commonly used dietary supplements. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It has been known to protect against heart diseases, lower blood pressure, and lower triglyceride levels. According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS Genetics, the beneficial effect of fish oil on triglycerides is seen only in people with a certain type of genetic makeup.
What are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides (TG) are the most common type of fats present in your body. TG are commonly found in foods like butter, margarines, and oils. The extra calories that the body doesn’t need to use right away are also stored as triglycerides.
High triglyceride levels are considered to be a marker (indicator) for heart diseases. A blood sample reading of less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered to be the normal level of TG. Higher levels of triglycerides may thicken the walls of the arteries, thereby increasing the risk of stroke and heart diseases.
Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which is very important for your heart health. Fish oil can be derived from consuming oily fish like mackerel and salmon or through supplements. Some fish oil products are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as prescription medications to lower triglycerides levels.
But, a recent study published in the journal PLOS Genetics claims that “taking fish oil only provides health benefits if you have the right genetic makeup.”
The study focussed on the effects of fish oil on triglyceride levels in the blood. The study also examined the levels of the other three blood lipids - high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, and total cholesterol. All these types of fats (lipids) are biomarkers for heart diseases.
The study analyzed the data of 70,000 individuals taken from UK Biobank. The study cohort was divided into two - those who took fish oil supplements (around 11,000) and those who didn’t.
After running over 64 million tests, it was found that people on fish supplements who experienced a reduction in their triglyceride levels had a specific genotype of the GJB2 gene.
Individuals with the AG genotype who took fish oil decreased their triglycerides.
The study further revealed that individuals with the AA genotype who took fish oil had slightly elevated levels of triglycerides. The effects of fish oil on triglycerides in people with GG type could not be determined as present in the variant rs112803755. So, if you have your DNA raw data file with you, you can look up this rsID to find out your genotype!
Recommendations to Reduce Your Triglyceride Levels
Apart from fish oil, there are also other effective methods to reduce your triglyceride levels. Some of them include:
Limiting your sugar intake
Excess sugar in your diet is turned into triglycerides, elevated levels of which are not good for your heart health. According to a study, replacing your sugary beverages with water can decrease your triglyceride levels by as much as 29 mg/dL.
Adopting a low-carb diet
The extra carbs in your diet are also converted into and stored as triglycerides. Following a low-carb diet has proven to be much more effective than following a low-fat diet in terms of reducing triglyceride levels.
HDL cholesterol is a type of good cholesterol. Increasing HDL levels can both help reduce triglyceride levels as well as counteract the effects of high triglycerides. Jogging for even two hours per week can reduce the levels of triglycerides.
Limiting Alcohol Intake
Alcohol is high in sugar and calories. If they are not used up by the body, they are converted into triglycerides. According to studies, even moderate alcohol consumption can increase your triglyceride levels by as much as 53%. This applies to people with normal triglyceride levels as well!
- High triglyceride levels are a marker for many heart diseases, as they contribute to plaque build-up in the arteries.
- Fish oil is one of the commonly used supplements and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It has been known to reduce triglyceride levels.
- According to a study, the effect of fish oil on triglyceride levels was found to be beneficial only in people with a specific genetic makeup.
- Upon analyzing the data of 70,000 people, the study found that fish oil reduces triglyceride levels only in people with the AG genotype of the GJB gene.
Do You Carry The Beneficial AG Genotype? Find Out Using Xcode Life’s Gene Tool!
- Further, people with the AA genotype experienced a slight increase in triglyceride levels upon fish oil consumption.
- Some other effective ways of reducing triglyceride levels are regular exercising, lowering the consumption of high-sugar and high-carb foods, and limiting alcohol intake.
- Should you take fish oil? Depends on your genotype
- GJB2 gene
- Substituting water for sugar-sweetened beverages reduces circulating triglycerides
- A low-carbohydrate as compared with a low-fat diet in severe obesity
- Effects of long-term, self-monitored exercise on the serum lipoprotein and apolipoprotein profile in middle-aged men
- Effect of moderate alcohol consumption on hypertriglyceridemia