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Fish Oil vs. Statins: You be the Judge -- An Editorial

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High Cholesterol related image Photo: Getty Images

Recently, I had blood work taken and was told my cholesterol and trigliceride levels were off the charts. Just what I wanted to hear, right?

The Central for Disease Control states: “Having high blood cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. About 1 of every 6 adult Americans has high blood cholesterol.”

Unfortunately, this is great news for the drug companies who make the statin drugs, but not so wonderful for 1 out of 6 Americans.

My cholesterol levels had been high in the past and my doctor had prescribed many different types of statin drugs, but all of them give me vicious leg cramps. Luckily, my doctor didn’t like that I was having leg cramps so she took me off them.

Research shows that statin drugs can cause other problems such as memory loss, liver damage, and/or muscle damage. In my opinion, these issues can be as problematic as possible heart disease.

This time around, my doctor has prescribed fish oil supplements which are supposed to be especially good for lowering triglycerides. Fish oil is more of a natural source than the statin drugs, but can also have side effects.

Webmd.com reported the side effects in their section on fish oil. “Fish oil can cause side effects including belching, bad breath, heartburn, nausea, loose stools, rash, and nosebleeds. Taking fish oil supplements with meals or freezing them can often decrease these side effects.”

Although these side effects sound rather unpleasant, I have to believe that most of us would rather suffer with a bit of gas over liver damage or memory loss.

Speaking of memory, look what ScienceDaily.com had to say in its report: "Fish Oil's Impact On Cognition and Brain Structure Identified in New Study."

“Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital's Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center have found positive associations between fish oil supplements and cognitive functioning as well as differences in brain structure between users and non-users of fish oil supplements. The findings suggest possible benefits of fish oil supplements on brain health and aging.”

In conclusion, if studies suggest that fish oil may help with memory and brain health, doesn’t it stand to reason that we should use it for lowering our cholesterol and triglyceride levels, too? You be the judge.

Sources and Information:

High Cholesterol: Understand Your Risks, High Cholesterol: Understand Your Risks. July 7, 2011

Triglycerides: Why do they matter? by the Mayo Clinic Staff. June 1, 2011 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/triglycerides/CL00015

What Is Cholesterol? July, 2011 http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbc/HBC_WhatIs.html

Statin side effects: Weigh the benefits and risks by Mayo Clinic staff. October 28, 2011

Lifespan (2011, August 17). Fish oil's impact on cognition and brain structure identified in new study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 26, 2011, from

Reviewed August 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment4 Comments

Wow, Bob, congrats to you! Those numbers are fantastic! But, I'm not 65 yet, so I'm not sure what a cardiologist would say about my numbers. However, I've started on the low-carbs last week and the fish oil. I'm curious, did you ever try the fish oil?

September 5, 2011 - 6:22pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Vonnie Kennedy)

I don't know if my numbers are "fantastic", but they do truly flummox every expert I've talked to. So far 3 cardiologists responses have been "you're an enigma", "somebody, not me, should write you up" and "there is something else going on here." All are different ways of saying "we don't really understand what causes CVD", though few can bring themselves to admit this.
I don't buy that fish oil is of value. One look at the difference between wonderful Omega3 fatty acid and horrible saturated fat is one single hydrogen atom at the "omega" end of a very long fat molecule. One atom out of hundreds or thousands of atoms. Mammals (including you and me) only make saturated fats. Why wouldn't we make omega3's if they were beneficial? Fish need fats that don't go solid at fish temperatures, but mammals don't deal with near freezing temps.
The data to support benefits from omega3 are way to weak for me to buy into it. The original reason fish oil was identified was to explain the "paradox" of people on high fat diets and low CVD. The better explanation is that fat, saturated or not, is not the cause of CVD.

September 6, 2011 - 9:22am

Oh yeah, low carbing immediately dropped my triglycerides from a 40 year average around 250-350 down to 65. It has since rebounded all the way back to 90-100. Every cardiologist I've talked to agrees carbs raise TG, but most "forget" to mention this in their publications.

September 5, 2011 - 9:41am

"having high cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease" I know that is the conventional wisdom, but did you know that for people over 65 there is no correlation between total cholesterol and risk. This is not controversial, all the cardiologists I've talked to agree. And this is especially interesting given that most heart attacks occur after this age. And I can personally attest that high cholesterol, really, really high doesn't even necessarily lead to plaque buildup. I'm 65, male, and my total cholesterol is 580. My LDL is 480. My heart arteries, by EBCT, or sometimes called coronary calcium scoring, is ZERO. No plaque. I went off statins years ago after developing peripheral neuropathy and as an added benefit my mind and memory seem greatly improved. I eat a high fat, low carb diet complete with 21 eggs a week, pounds of butter, marbled steak, cheese by the pound, and since dropping carbs 5 years ago my BMI has fallen 4 points to 23.4.

September 5, 2011 - 9:36am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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