T Nation

Fish Oil Let Down


I just had my blood analyzed and my HDL (good cholesterol) went from 50 which it was six months ago to 41 this time around. My other cholesterol numbers were almost unchanged.

My HDL used to be in the low 40's and I attributed my use of Fish Oil (6g to 9g per day) with bringing the number up to 50. However, I am now thinking that the Fish Oil had nothing to do with it.

While I maintained my use of Fish Oil over the past six months, I cut dramatically back on my cardio sessions. I have been in more of a lifting phase.

Has anyone else noticed that Fish Oil alone did not work wonders for your HDL cholesterol?

Has anyone noticed that regularly cardio at least three times per week has improved your HDL number?


Im hoping mine isnt the same result but from some of the research I have been doing if you have been supp.with dhea it may well contribute to this


Cholesterol numbers are so incredibly complicated, it's hard to point at one factor. For starters, there are different types of HDL and LDL (smaller and larger particles in varying degrees). So it would be possible to be healthier with 41 HDL than with 50 HDL, depending on the types of HDL you have. Diet and exercise has been shown to have an influence on your HDL/LDL profile in that way.

There's a great book out there that goes into these details called "Before The Heart Attacks." I can't remember the author's name and lent the book to my father, but I'm sure you can find it on Amazon easily enough.

Secondly, cardio has been linked to increased HDL, so if you're cutting back on it, that might explain some of the change. There are bazillion other possible factors: stress, not enough saturated fat, overtraining, and god knows what else... for all we know, there could be seasonal flunctuations.

I also read something interesting in "The Omega3 Diet" that said that if you compare HDL to trashmen (HDL removing the trash of LDL), then you might have fewer HDL simply because there's less trash in your system.

And, of course, modern science is starting to realize that straight up HDL/LDL cholesterol numbers are very limited in their usefullness. Hell, my own father had two angioplasties in his mid 40's despite what would be considered merely "borderline-high cholesterol levels" (lower 200's) and a very good HDL number (mid to high 50's).


Cholesterol numbers are important and useful. There are just a lot of other factors in heart problems like homocysteine levels.


Very good post!

It's interesting how far behind the average doctor is in this country. I know of no test that separates HDL. While I'm sure they have them they are not standard on a typical blood profile.


Equally, to add to the uncertainty over cholesterol, some researchers, such as Udo Errasum, believe that cholesterol is not the biggest problem and is vital to cell health, and that cholesterol gets the blame when in fact it is the lack of protective antioxidants in modern diets that causes CHD. With this in mind, eating a healthy BB diet with prudent supplementation should cover one in this area of concern.


And I agree with Udo. But I was still surprised to see my HDL down 20% simply because I was not doing cardio (Or so it seems).


just my 2 cents
have you lost weight??(bodyfat)
if so i believe this is the single reason why your choles. is improving!!


This is a tad off-topic, but has anyone had experience with a lack of sex-drive and weight room motivation while taking fish oils? I've tried this now three seperate occasions, and each time, the same thing has happened, but the drop in sex-drive is the most apparent. I've noticed the same relative experience with flax oil although I haven't experimented as many times, only once. I started using the fish oils in an attempt to raise my health level. The benefits seemed overwhelming, but I'm wonderring if I'm the exception here. I really would like to continue supplementing for health reasons, but I don't want to feel like this either.


according to what I've read fish oil isn't supposed to have a notable effect on cholesterol which is part of the reason it's not more recommended by doctors. It's supposed to have an effect on triglycerides but not lower cholesterol ??


The winter of 2004-2005 I was supplementing regularly with Udo's Blend and fish oil caps. Prior to last year, I never used either. When I had my annual physical in April 2005, I was still using both. My HDL was 44 and LDL was 116.

The prior April my HDL was 50 and my LDL was 96. My level of cardio was the same of the entire period. Being as the numbers were going in the wrong direction, I stopped using both. The fact that Udo's blend was expensive and tasted like paint (i.e., linseed oil) made it even easier to give that up.

I'm looking forward to seeing if I'm back on track this April.


fish oil doesnt generally do much for HDL, in some people it will make it lower. Can also raise LDL.

It will still reduce CVD risk, irrespective of any effects on lipoproteins.


I think this would be psychosematic at best. Do you have the same problem eating a Tuna Fish sandwich? if you are experiencing (in your words) a drop in sex-drive, you need to look within. Fish-oil is not your problem.


Do you have any current health problems? Just that you mention you are trying to 'raise' your health levels. The fish oil might be interfering/interacting with something. How much are you taking?


Maybe. You dont even know how much fish oil he is taking. Suppose he is on 20g a day - thats an awful lot of Tuna!



I'd be interested in reading up on the DHEA info you referenced with regard to Lipid profile. I am in the same boat. Can you point me in the right direction or elaborate further.


I am going to get tested again in early Feb. after supplementing with fish oil for six weeks to raise HDL. I'll let you know. The test my doctor mentioned was a VAP Panel Lipid profile. It is suppoesed to further analyze the type of HDL (size) I believe. Hope I got the name right.


All the fish oil in the world won't do crap if you're living off of trans fat filed junk food(not saying that you are,but I see a lot of people say the same crap,but they don't want to change their diet).


1 Cholesterol is not a deadly poison, but a substance vital to the cells of all mammals. There are no such things as good or bad cholesterol, but mental stress, physical activity and change of body weight may influence the level of blood cholesterol. A high cholesterol is not dangerous by itself, but may reflect an unhealthy condition, or it may be totally innocent.

2 A high blood cholesterol is said to promote atherosclerosis and thus also coronary heart disease. But many studies have shown that people whose blood cholesterol is low become just as atherosclerotic as people whose cholesterol is high.

3 Your body produces three to four times more cholesterol than you eat. The production of cholesterol increases when you eat little cholesterol and decreases when you eat much. This explains why the ?prudent? diet cannot lower cholesterol more than on average a few per cent.

4 There is no evidence that too much animal fat and cholesterol in the diet promotes atherosclerosis or heart attacks. For instance, more than twenty studies have shown that people who have had a heart attack haven't eaten more fat of any kind than other people, and degree of atherosclerosis at autopsy is unrelated with the diet.

5 The only effective way to lower cholesterol is with drugs, but neither heart mortality or total mortality have been improved with drugs the effect of which is cholesterol-lowering only. On the contrary, these drugs are dangerous to your health and may shorten your life.

6 The new cholesterol-lowering drugs, the statins, do prevent cardio-vascular disease, but this is due to other mechanisms than cholesterol-lowering. Unfortunately, they also stimulate cancer in rodents, disturb the functions of the muscles, the heart and the brain and pregnant women taking statins may give birth to children with malformations more severe than those seen after thalidomide.

7 Many of these facts have been presented in scientific journals and books for decades but are rarely told to the public by the proponents of the diet-heart idea.

8 The reason why laymen, doctors and most scientists have been misled is because opposing and disagreeing results are systematically ignored or misquoted in the scientific press.


If anything it should improve your sex drive, but shouldn't have any effect. Here's a stupid question, have you changed your intake of saturated and monosaturated fats along with the fish oil supplementation? If so your testosterone levels may have dropped some, possibly leading to that. Just a wild shot...


Hi Zeb:

I had exactly the same thing happen. I cut my low intensity cardio way down (was doing pretty much HIIT only), and my HDL went down about 12 points; my LDL and Triglycerides went up, and too much for my liking. I'm doing a few things differently as a direct result:

I am taking a Niacin supplement as an experiment (reaserch this, and if you try it, I suggest a NOFLUSH version, in case like me you're one of the 35% that gets a flush from regular niacin).

I am increasing my low intensity cardio again, but still doing a lot of HIIT, too.

Here's some of my thoughts as to why:

Low intensity cardio uses fat (and muscle) for energy. The fat comes from several places, including the Triglycerides and LDL in the blood (used as a source for fat-fuel). Thus, as the Tri's and LDL are burned-off, the HDL has less work to do (a primary role is binding with, then transporting oxidized LDL to the liver for burning).

Thus HDL increases in the blood. When you stop using the blood-based Triglycerides for fuel (i.e, when you do HIIT only, including heavy-weight strength training) then HDL goes down accordingly, as it is now swamped with LDL that's not getting burned off in high-intensity exercises or post-workout recovery to the same extent as low intensity cardio.

Do you follow my line of thought here; and does it seem reasonable? That's my thoughts on the matter.

I also have another more worrying thought about this: I followed the almost universal advice last year of taking high GI carbs/protein as a post-workout meal. My concern is an errosion of insulin sensitivity as a result of the massive blood-sugar spike. This in turn drives up Tri's and LDL, and reduces HDL.

This is a completely different mechanism to the one above, but in my mind, both seem plausible.

Insulin resistance is not unheard of in bodybuilding (but I also know it's not that widespread either). So in addition to my elevated cardio work (with more low intensity stuff - walking and such), I am also not taking high GI carbs period; not even after a workout.

My primary goal is getting my blood in excellent condition, and a secondary goal is building muscle / looking good.

I have tried to run this by a nutritional expert but not had much success. I intend to pay John Beradi's consultancy fee in March or so (christmas bills now...) and get an hour of his time on this subject, coz to me it's really important in the great health and fitness scheme of things. Once I've so-consulted, I'll see if John lets me make a public posting on his views.

I still believe fish oil helps; but I think it's better for joints and fat-mobilization than for reducing LDL. For me, low intenstiy cardio worked SPECTACULARLY for reducing LDL/Tri's, so I am not especially surprised at my recent reversal, given that I stopped doing the low intensity stuff to help promote muscle growth/retention.

I'm trying a different strategy to the one that I KNOW will work, because I don;t especially relish the prospect of losing 20LB or so of muscle on the treadmill again. :slightly_smiling: