Debunking The Myth: Omega 3 Improves Cholesterol

Debunking The Myth: Omega 3 Improves Cholesterol

“You should take Omega 3 to help your cholesterol levels” - a common quote throughout articles and even something we hear many doctors say, but is this statement correct?

The answer: it depends on your genetics.

For some, Omega 3 is very helpful in regulating cholesterol levels, but in others, Omega 3 may have the opposite effect.

What are Omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered the “healthy fats” and are commonly found in fish and some oils.  

The Myth: Omega 3 Fatty acids improve “good” cholesterol

In fact, this is true in only 65% of the population.  In 35% of the population, Omega-3 fatty acids actually decrease their HDL cholesterol levels (the good kind) [2][3][4]

A gene variation on the APOA1 gene is responsible for this reverse effect.

What is the APOA1 Gene?

The APOA1 gene provides instructions to the body to make a protein that is a component of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), playing an important role in regulating the amount of fat in the blood.  [5] [6]

Your APOA1 Gene and Your Omega 3 Needs

Taking a simple at home DNA test, like Rootine’s DNA Sample Kit, will help you understand if you do, or do not, have a variation on the APOA1 gene.  

If you have a normal APOA1 gene, then taking Omega 3 for heart health could be beneficial.  However, it is important to make sure you are taking the correct amount for your body. The dosage will depend on your lifestyle and your current blood levels.

If you have a genetic variation, taking Omega 3 may be decreasing your HDL (or good) cholesterol levels.

If You Have a Genetic Variation, You Can Still Maintain Heart Health Without Omega 3

If you have an APOA1 gene variation, you may benefit from a few lifestyle and diet changes.  Keep in mind that fish may not be as healthy for you as it is for others, so it could be beneficial to adjust your diet accordingly.  Also, taking fish oils with the goal to improve your cholesterol is likely counterproductive.

Phytosterols have a similar effect on cholesterol as Omega 3’s effect on individuals with a normal APOA1 gene, so increasing your phytosterol intake could also be beneficial.

Have additional questions about how your APOA1 gene impacts Omega 3?

Ask our Chief Scientist and co-founder, Daniel.

What Are Your Omega3 Needs?

The only true way to know if you're impacting your cholesterol is to test for any APOA1 genetic variations. If cholesterol is something you need to improve, it's important not to decrease your HDL (or good) cholesterol levels. Our lifestyle quiz can provide you with a guide on what your Omega3 need is, based on your current diet and lifestyle.