The American Heart Association (AHA) released a scientific statement this week on triglycerides and cardiovascular disease. In the statement, certain lifestyle factors—diet and exercise—were considered with regard to their effects on lowering triglycerides. Almost one-third of Americans have high triglycerides. Since 1976, average triglyceride levels have risen alongside the growing epidemic of obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, all of which can lead to cardiovascular disease.

The AHA statement recommends the optimization of nutrition-related practices, which can result in a marked triglyceride-lowering effect ranging between 20% and 50%.  They recommend the following:

  • Weight loss
  • Reducing simple carbohydrates
  • Increasing dietary fiber
  • Eliminating trans fats
  • Reducing fructose (mainly high-fructose corn syrup)
  • Reducing saturated fats
  • Eating a Mediterranean-style diet (high in fresh fruits and vegetables, high fiber, lean meats, healthy fats)
  • Consuming marine-derived omega-3s

These recommendations are right on, and in line with what I have been recommending for years—not just for a healthy heart, but for overall health and well being.

The statement made a point of talking about the importance of marine-based omega-3s.  Here’s a quote:

“Non–marine-based PUFAs [like canola, flaxseed, walnuts] have not demonstrated consistent reductions in triglycerides; this may reflect very low conversion rates of alpha-linolenic acid [ALA]…to the active triglyceride-lowering omega-3 compounds EPA and DHA.”

While ALA is a great source of omega-3s, it takes many complex steps in the body to convert it to the heart-healthy DHA and EPA, which are naturally found in fish oil.  Further, they state:

“Because the amount needed for significant triglyceride lowering (2 to 4 g) is difficult to attain through diet alone on a daily basis, supplementation with capsules may be needed.”

That’s why I recommend fish oil supplements—it’s not easy to get all that EPA and DHA from eating fish alone.  And then you have to worry about the contaminants found in fish… (that’s another blog).

I know that for a while now, the AHA has been recommending EPA and DHA fish oil for high triglycerides.  It’s nice to see this statement together with other recommendations for supporting heart health.  Cardiovascular disease is such a huge problem in this country, and it can largely be avoided by incorporating the lifestyle changes mentioned above.

Right on AHA!