High-dose omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil has become the number one strategy for reduction of lipoprotein(a), Lp(a), in the Track Your Plaque program for gaining control over coronary plaque and heart disease risk.
The original observations made in Tanzanian Bantus in the Lugalawa Study by Marcovina et al first suggested that higher dietary exposure to fish and perhaps omega-3 fatty acids from fish were associated with 40% lower levels of Lp(a). Interestingly, higher omega-3 exposure was also associated with having the longer apo(a) “tails” on Lp(a) molecules, a characteristic associated with more benign, less aggressive plaque-causing behavior.
Of course, the 600+ fish- consuming Bantus in the study consumed fish over a lifetime, from infancy on up through adulthood. So what is the time course of response if us non-Bantus take higher doses of fish oil to reduce Lp(a)?
We have been applying this approach in the Track Your Plaque program and in my office practice for the past few years. To my surprise, the majority of people taking 6000 mg per day of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, will drop Lp(a) after one year. Some have required two years. Therefore checking Lp(a) after, say, 3 or 6 months, is nearly useless. (An early response does, however, appear to predict a very vigorous 1-2 year response.)
I’m sure that there is an insightful lesson to be learned from the incredibly slow response, but I don’t currently know what it is. But this strategy has become so powerful, despite its slow nature, that it has allowed many people to back down on niacin.
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