How to Enhance the Heart-Health Benefits of Fish Oil

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Fish oil is rich in polyunsaturated omega-3 fats. These days, even mainstream medicine is heralding the health benefits that fish oil offers.

By adding omega-3 fats to your diet and supplement regimen, you’re opening yourself up to a range of health benefits, including:

  1. Healthier mood1
  2. Healthier brain function2
  3. Healthier heart function3
  4. Lower Systemic Inflammation4
Did you know that already? If so, you’re off to a great start. But here’s something you probably didn’t know: you can actually enhance fish oil’s heart health benefits by combining it with olive oil.

Olive Oil Boosts the Heart Benefits of Fish Oil

The latest scientific evidence shows that when consumed in combination, omega-3 fats and olive oil offer greater benefits than either nutrient alone.

In a study, scientists presented data regarding atherosclerosis prevention in pre-clinical, animal models. The Norwegian researchers studied animals with arterial plaques and administered a blend of marine omega-3 fats and extra virgin olive oil. The progression of atherosclerosis was the primary measurement they were interested in.

What they discovered was amazing: in the female animals, there was a significant reduction in the size of arterial plaques in the aorta and in the aortic arch. The male animals experienced significant reductions in the size of arterial plaques in the thoracic and abdominal aortas.5

The researchers concluded that a dietary combination of omega-3 fish oil and olive oil inhibited arterial plaque formation and progression in their animal model study.5

Finding the Right Olive Oil & Fish Oil Supplement

Does your fish oil supplement contain olive oil? If not, maybe you should consider one that does. Look for a combination product that includes the concentrated antioxidants found naturally in olive oil, called polyphenols. These are the powerful plant-based antioxidants that give olive oil its beneficial properties.

Look on the back label and make sure the olive fruit extract breaks-down similar to this:

  • 6-7% polyphenols
  • 1-2% hydroxytyrosol
  • 0.5% oleuropein

Yes, Include Olive Oil in Your Daily Diet

Remember, supplements are designed to supplement the food that you eat. So, regardless of your own personal regimen, you should still try to include olive oil in your daily diet.

However, choosing an olive oil can be confusing within itself. There are many variables that go into olive oil production which can yield dramatic differences in terms of quality, including color, aroma, and flavor.

The overall quality of olive oil is determined by its acidity — the more acidic it is, the lower the quality. Here’s a quick summary of the different types available:

  1. Refined Olive Oil – this is the oil that comes from the second and third pressing of the olives. It contains not only the oil, but also olive juice which is very acidic. It’s usually too acidic for human consumption and has to be further “refined” with heat and/or chemicals in order for it to be sold in grocery stores. The refined olive oil tends to be the cheapest and lowest quality. It’s okay for flavoring meats, fish or poultry, but not so good as a dressing or a dip. Food that says, “Packaged in olive oil,” typically uses refined oil.
  2. Semifine Virgin Olive Oil – this is acidic oil that is left over after the first press but is not refined. It’s very bitter tasting when uncooked, but tends to be okay when cooked. This is also considered low quality.
  3. Virgin Olive Oil – this is the oil from the first press of the olive. It contains no olive juice, only the oils. Its overall acidity is low, but it tastes best cooked.
  4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – this is lower in acidity than virgin olive oil. The lower acidity gives it a fruity taste and deeper aroma and color. It’s good cooked or uncooked and can be used confidently in salad dressings.
  5. Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil – this olive oil is the lowest in acidity and has the best flavor. It tastes great uncooked, makes for the best dressings, and can also serve as a great dip for bread.

Have you heard of this omega-3 combination before? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Curr Drug Discov Technol. 2011 Aug 15.
  2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Apr;85(4):1142-7.
  3. J Nutr. 2004 Jul;134(7):1806-11.
  4. Nutr Clin Pract. 2009 Aug-Sep;24(4):508-12.
  5. Lipids Health Dis. 2011 Mar 3;10:41.


Anonymous said...

Does this mean we should buy canned tuna fish in olive oil rather than water?

Paul Wakfer said...

Thanks for the info regarding the synergistic effect of fish and olive oils, although I have taken both for many years, I had not read this.

BTW, your references (and those in the magazine also) would be more useful if you would add the PMID or DOI numbers. The standard print journal reference format that you use makes Internet location of the study not easy to do (sometimes a PubMed search with that string works and sometimes it doesn't), whereas either of these numbers would make access to the reference almost automatic, at least to the abstracts which are always freely available. In fact, if you used the format in your references then it would be fully automatic.

So how about changing to a reference format such as:
Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Apr;85(4):1142-7.

Paul Wakfer said...

Whoops! I spoke too soon.

Your blog statement:
"The latest scientific evidence shows that when consumed in combination, omega-3 fats and olive oil offer greater benefits than either nutrient alone."

clearly implies that a synergistic effect was shown by a scientific study.

However, after studying the abstract and full text of your reference #5 (which is the actual study of olive oil and fish oils together - free full paper at, it is clear that while synergy is reasonably theorized, it was not tested by that study. In order to show a synergistic effect, there would need to be at least 3 different cohorts of test subjects, one for each separately and one for the combination. A fourth unsupplemented cohort is generally also included in any such study. This study only contained two cohorts of mice. One unsupplemented and the other supplemented with extra virgin olive oil and seal oil.

Please accept this as a constructive criticism, because such logical mistakes detract from the excellent information that LEF provides and the quality of the backing for their recommendations and products.

Life Extension said...

Paul, you bring up a good point: we need better designed, human clinical studies to draw definitive conclusions. But until then, we make suggestions based on the available information. With that said, we firmly believe that olive oil and fish oil provide greater health benefits than either one alone.

Paul Wakfer said...

I agree entirely that "olive oil and fish oil [together] provide greater health benefits that either one alone", and I even agree that studies provide good evidence for that, based on the fact that both are beneficial but by somewhat different mechanisms of action. However, "synergy" means that the effect of the two together is *greater* than the sum of each separate effect. As it is all that we can be sure of is that the health benefits are sub-additively better than either alone. Without such a study as I described, it has not been shown that the benefits are fully additive.

Adolfo David said...

My opinion about your topic/discussion about fish oil and olive oil is that fish oil is a poliunsaturated fat, and it is oxidized easly. So you need antioxidants with you fish oil.

Dr Barry Sears, one of greatest experts in fish oils, always recommends to add polyphenols (more than other antioxidants) to your fish oil. And LEF has added olive oil polyphenols to its Omega 3.

Apart from if specifically olive oil increase effectiveness or fish oil, its absolutely clear that adding polyphenols (in this case from fish oil) improves a lot your fish oil product.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your informed comments Paul Wakfer. It's information that clarifies an important point for anyone thinking of using the combination of olive and fish oil.

Life Extension said...

Hi Adolfo. You're right. The original reason we added olive oil and sesame lignans had to do with preventing oxidation of the fats. It turns out, however, that we gain additional health benefits from sesame and olive oil!

Dr Michael Rault said...

Now this is getting interesting.What about flaxseed also for lignans and others and borage or evening primrose oil and coconut oil in the mix since we talking synergism.

Life Extension said...

Great question Dr. Rault. The research is pointing towards the hydroxytyrosol as the synergistic component in olive oil. Other oils don't have it in any significant amount.

Michel said...

Thanks for the info, especially about the combination of omega 3 and olive oil.

Life Extension said...

Michel, you're very welcome. Thanks for reading the post by the way. :)

Coach Mike said...

I've been a member of LEF since February, 1984. The info has always been right on target. Thanks so much for all you have done for the past 3 decades.

Mike Williams @MikeWilliamsPro said...

Awesome read, I wasn't aware of the Olive oil benefits with fish oils. I will find further readings very nice read.

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