Fish oil study has good news for those worried about cholesterol

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements — often sold as fish oil capsules — are popular due to research indicating beneficial effects on brain and heart health. Some past research has raised questions over whether these supplements raise 'bad' cholesterol levels, however, something the new study addresses.

The study comes from the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI), which notes that there's evidence high doses of omega-3s can increase 'bad' LDL cholesterol in people who have very high triglyceride levels. However, it has been unclear whether the average generally healthy person faces the same risk.

Using data on more than 9,200 adults from the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, the study found that people who started taking fish oil supplements didn't experience an increase in bad cholesterol levels and that an increase in RBC DHA levels was linked to a 'statistically significant,' though small, reduction in LDL cholesterol.

The researchers note that the decrease in LDL cholesterol wasn't significant at the clinical level, but it did indicate that the general population may not be at risk of increased bad cholesterol levels when taking fish oil supplements, which are available over-the-counter compared to prescription omega-3 products.

Ultimately, FARI president Dr. William Harris explained that the new findings 'clearly show that people who take fish oil supplements need not worry about adversely affecting their cholesterol levels as some have proposed.'