MADISON, N.J. — Most Americans have little understanding of the importance of managing fats known as triglycerides to maintain cardiovascular health, according to a new survey.
To conduct the survey, researchers from Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind polled 600 adults aged 40 and older, finding that 54% of respondents didn't know if it was better to have high or low levels of triglycerides, and 45% of those diagnosed as having high cholesterol didn't know.
"Avoiding high triglyceride levels can be important for maintaining cardiovascular health, yet most consumers have little awareness of these often forgotten fats," Utah Foundation for Biomedical Research director of atherometabolic research Eliot Brinton said. "Healthcare professionals have done a fairly good job at educating patients about cholesterol, but need to do more to teach about triglycerides and their role in cardiovascular health."
Only 16% of respondents correctly said triglycerides were fats in the bloodstream, while 77% were unsure what they were, and 56% could not name a single health complication associated with high triglycerides. Meanwhile, 85% did not know the point at which triglycerides are considered high, and 75% were unaware of their total cholesterol levels, twice as many as the 37% who were unaware of their triglyceride levels.
Ignorance of products with omega-3 fatty acids and their potential role to control high triglycerides was also widespread, and nearly all participants were unaware that high doses — defined as 2 mg to 4 mg per day — of omega-3s could reduce high triglyceride levels. Among those who report using an omega-3 product, 84% report taking a dietary supplement even though the Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved such products for lowering high triglycerides or treating or preventing any disease. More than half of participants couldn't name any main ingredient of omega-3 supplement capsules, while 11% could state the health benefits of DHA, and 8% could state the benefits of EPA; DHA and EPA are both names of omega-3 acids. Most omega-3 products contain DHA, which has been shown to raise "bad" low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, but only 2% of participants were aware of this.
"It is troubling that so many Americans use a product about which they understand very little and which may well fail to meet their particular cardiovascular health needs," Brinton said.