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Fish Oil Is More Effective At Lowering Triglycerides Than Flax Oil

One of the most common denominators I see when coaching clients with metabolic syndrome is elevated triglyceride levels.

The issue is much more complex than the individual consuming excess saturated fats. Of course this is the general culprit that’s been identified by the mainstream medical community for the past twenty years.

While I agree an individual diagnosed with elevated triglyceride levels should reduce red meat consumption, especially fatty cuts, and eliminate fried foods completely, reducing saturated fats isn’t the end all solution.

A holistic approach to restoring health by improving insulin sensitivity and cellular function is in order because elevated triglyceride levels are simply a sign that the body is out of balance.

A diet consisting mostly of live, raw foods like fruit and vegetables along with lean proteins and healthy omega-3 fats is a good foundation for lowering triglyceride levels based on my experience working with clients.

Supplementing with a high quality omega-3 fatty acid is always at the top on my list of recommendations. Invariably the question of whether fish oil of flax seed oil is best comes up when discussing options with clients.

In today’s post I’ll be explaining why I believe fish oil is superior to flax seed oil at reducing triglyceride levels.

More after the jump…

In full disclosure I’ll be the first to admit this may be splitting hairs as both fish oil and flax seed oil are excellent sources of omega-3 fats.

From a general health standpoint I’ll take either one. However, when a primary objective is lowering elevated triglyceride levels, I’ll ALWAYS choose fish oil over flax seed oil.

Why fish oil is more effective than flax seed oil at lowering triglyceride levels…

The primary reason I recommend fish oil over flax seed oil is because fish oil contains more readily available EPA and DHA. These are simply two forms of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA- docosahexaenoic acid) and (EPA- eicosapentaenoic acid).

Fish oil contains more EPA and DHA primarily because fish prey upon omega-3 rich algae. The difference is flax seed oil contains ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is a precusor to DHA and EPA.

This means the body must convert the ALA to DHA and EPA. Often times this conversion is compromised due to the in-availability of an enzyme called “delta-6-destaurase.”  Such is the case especially with diabetics or individuals who are pre-diabetic with insulin resistance issues.

As I eluded to earlier, elevated triglyceride levels is a much more complex issue than just having too much saturated fat in the diet. Metabolic syndrome is frequently seen with these same individuals leading to increased inflammation and adrenal hormone imbalances.

Because fish oil has both EPA and DHA readily available without converting from ALA, it makes for a superior option with individuals who have metabolic issues in my opinion.

What else can be done to help lower triglyceride levels?

No surprises here as the recommendations will be consistent for anyone suffering from Metabolic X Syndrome. The first thing you’ll want to do is obviously exercise and follow a supportive nutrition diet.

The reason exercise is so beneficial is because it activates an enzyme called “lipo-protein lipase.” So you know, this a primary enzyme that is responsible for breaking down triglycerides in the body.

From a dietary perspective I’m a proponent of minimizing sugar and starch consumption. While some physicians recommend consuming lots of whole grains, I think you have to be careful with this.

Not to turn this into a debate over whether or not whole grains are “healthy,” it simply goes back to the issues with insulin resistance. If an individual has issues with insulin sensitivity, they’re likely to do better with a diet that lowers insulin secretion and stabilizes blood sugar levels.

This means they’ll want to avoid consuming excess starches that only keeps their body flooded with excess insulin and sugar.

The real “danger” with elevated triglyceride levels is the combination of excess fatty acids in the blood along with high inflammation from insulin imbalances. It’s ultimately inflammation that leads to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Reducing inflammation in the body is job “numero uno.” This means increasing omega-3 fatty acids, fiber content, and raw, live foods in the diet. Of course exercise falls in there as well.

Which fish oils are best to supplement with?

It’s imperative that you select a high quality omega-3 supplement along with looking to consume cold water fishes several times a week for best results.

The best cold fishes are as follows: (total omega-3 (DHA + EPA content per 4.0 ounces)

Salmon: 2.4 grams

Mackerel: 2.4 grams

Herring: 1.6 grams

Halibut: 1.3 grams

Sardines: 1.1 grams

Trout: 1.1 grams

Tuna: 1.0 grams

From a supplement standpoint I recommend a high quality fish oil that is free from impurities. While there are several good options to choose from, my preferred brands are Barlean’s fish oil and the Advocare OmegaPlex.

These are the only two brands I recommend to my personal training clients after extensive research.

Dr. Oz recently gave a recommendation for Advocare OmegaPlex as being one of the top fish oil supplements available.

You’ll find links below where you can order both products.

Advocare OmegaPlex

Barlean’s Fish Oils

In general the fish oil capsules are just as effective as the liquid form so long as you’re taking a high quality product. You’ll want to look for products like the above that are cold processed for maximum assimilation.

If you’ve ever taken fish oil in capsule or liquid form in the past and experienced the unpleasant tendency of “burping” them up, you’ll definitely want to try the Advocare or Barlean’s products. I’ve not experienced this with either product.

How much omega-3 should I supplement with?

This is an often debated subject as individuals like Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola are often changing their recommend dosages. Dr. Mercola tends to recommend more on the higher side and Dr. Oz seems to be much more conservative.

Who’s right?

We’ll I think it depends on the individual.

Personally I’ve not seen overly impressive results with dosages under 1 gram (1,000 mg) daily. While this may be helpful from an overall health standpoint, it doesn’t seem to be enough to significantly reduce triglyceride levels and inflammation.

I typically recommend a dosage of somewhere between 3-6 grams daily. Once again it depends on the individual and their current state of health.

As always it’s a good idea to consult with your physician after doing blood work to assess triglyceride levels. Fish oil thins your blood so taking large amounts could be a cause for concern if you’re taking some medications.

If you’re taking beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and/or alpha blockers to lower blood pressure, just know that fish oil will lower it even more. This can be a good thing, but once again it goes back to how much is too much.

As a general recommendation you can start with a smaller dosage (1,000-2,000 mg 0r 1-2 grams) and work it up from there slowly. The diminishing return point is probably somewhere over 6 grams daily.

I’ve seen some health experts recommend high dosages of 10 grams or more daily but I’d caution against that. Too much can obviously be just as much of a concern as not enough.

If you take higher dosages (4-6 grams daily), I’d limit it to short periods of time and then cycle back to more maintenance type doses of 1-2 grams daily.

Bottom line…

There aren’t very many supplements I recommend for just about everyone to take, but omega-3 supplements are certainly one of them. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in our diet is simply far to high in most cases. The majority of individuals have no problem getting in sufficient omega-6 fatty acids, but omega-3′s are a different story.

Make no mistake, omega-3′s are one of the most powerful supplements you can take for maintaining and restoring health. The benefits are numerous and would extend the scope of this discussion.

One thing is for sure, if you’ve received a lab report showing that you’ve got elevated triglyceride levels, the first thing I’d tell you to do is start increasing omega-3′s in your diet. It can make a significant difference if combined with other lifestyle changes with diet and exercise.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. If you’re looking for a personal trainer in Charleston, you can receive a no-obligations personal training trial and consultation without risking a dime. Over 1000 Charleston area residents have transformed their bodies following our unique burst training workouts and simplified nutrition programs. Experience the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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Category: Supplements.