Overview

High cholesterol may not always cause symptoms, but it requires treatment all the same. When it comes to controlling your cholesterol, statins are king.

Can fish oil work just as well to reduce your cholesterol? Read on to learn how it stacks up.

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are credited with a range of health benefits. Among other things, omega-3 fatty acids have been said to:

Though it’s found naturally in fish, fish oil is most often taken in supplement form.

In 2012, nearly 19 million American adults used products containing fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids.

Statins stop the body from making cholesterol. They also help it to reabsorb plaque that’s built up on the artery walls.

One longitudinal study found that 27.8 percent of Americans over 40 years old were using statins as of 2013.

Studies on fish oil have been mixed. Fish oil supplements have been tied to a long list of benefits, including:

Some studies, such as those noted in a 2011 review, have found a decreased risk of heart disease in people taking fish oil supplements. Other studies, such as one 2013 clinical trial of 12,000 people with cardiovascular risk factors, have found no such evidence.

In addition, although fish oil does decrease triglycerides, there isn’t sufficient evidence that it lowers heart attack risk.

When it comes to lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, the evidence simply isn’t there. In fact, fish oil can actually increase LDL levels for some people according to a 2013 literature review.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), statins show an indisputable ability to prevent heart disease but should be taken with care.

Statins have benefits in addition to reducing your cholesterol. For example, they have anti-inflammatory properties that could work to stabilize blood vessels, and they can help prevent heart attacks, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It’s because of their potential side effects, such as muscle pain, that they’re generally only prescribed to people with high cholesterol and a risk of cardiovascular disease. They’re not considered preventive medicine.

If you have high cholesterol, taking statins is an effective way to manage your risk. Taking fish oil may have its own benefits, but lowering your LDL cholesterol isn’t one of them.

Speak with your doctor about your options and the benefits and risks of statin therapy.

Many people take supplements as a preventive measure. However, the best way to help prevent high cholesterol is by making healthy lifestyle choices, including: