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Omega-3 fatty acids are called essential fats for the reason that the human body is unable to produce them.
Omega-3 fatty acids must be consumed from foods in order for the body to survive.
As mentioned earlier, the only way to get Omega-3 fatty acids is from food; fatty fish is the richest source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
However, if you’re not a fan of fatty fish (you must eat fatty fish at least twice a week to provide your body with a sufficient amount of Omega-3 fatty acids), consider taking Omega-3 supplements.
EPA and DHA are the most health beneficial types of Omega-3 fatty acids.
What’s the Fuss about Omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids prevent the development of various cardio-vascular diseases as well as problems with the digestive tract.
They also lower pain syndromes in the joints, improve eyesight, and normalize the metabolism (3).
If you are one of the following, you are recommended to take Omega-3 fatty acids:
- athletes and bodybuilders – to allow speedy recovery from rigorous trainings (5)
- pregnant women – to boost the immune system (6)
- children – to promote healthy body development and growth (7)
- people with vitamin E deficiency
- people who want to reduce the risk of developing health issues with the digestive tract, cardio-vascular system, and the metabolism (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
Nonetheless, certain precautions must be taken if you opt to take Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of supplements.
Before taking Omega-3, make sure you have a look at the label instructions.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Health Benefits
Nutrition experts recommend taking Omega-3 fatty acids if you suffer from cardio-vascular disorders or arthritis.
Omega-3 fatty acids significantly improve the state of the arteries, lower the level of bad cholesterol, positively affect joints and bones, as well as improving the state of the skin and lungs (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Furthermore, some of the most significant health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids include prevention of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.
This is the reason why Omega-3 acids are recommended even if you have never had any problems with your heart (14).
Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Tip: You don’t need to stock up on Omega-3 or fish oil supplements to be healthy. One tablespoon of flaxseed oil per day amounts to the daily recommended intake of Omega-3 fatty acids.
You can find Omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish, legumes, as well as a few types of vegetables.
Many nutrition experts claim that two to three servings of fatty fish per week is enough for your body to stay healthy (16).
So How Much Omega-3 is Enough?
If you take Omega-3 fatty acids in capsules, it is recommended to wash them down with a large amount of water.
Omega-3 fatty acids must be taken approximately 30 minutes after a meal.
If you are an adult who wants to maintain good health, you must take one capsule per day.
If you are in need of Omega-3 treatment, you must take two to three capsules per day (17).
Children must take special Omega-3 fatty acids supplements for kids.
Follow the instruction in order to determine the required amount of capsules or chewing candies needed for kids of different ages.
Symptoms of Overdose
You must always follow instructions when taking Omega-3 fatty acids supplements.
Otherwise, you risk developing the following symptoms of overdose:
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- acute condition of pancreatitis
- pain in the abdomen
In case you’ve developed any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is recommended to immediately stop taking the supplement and undergo therapy (2).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Side Effects
- belching, accompanied by the taste of fish
- development of the taste of fish during the course
- allergic reactions, though extremely rare
Tip: When taking Omega-3 fatty acids supplements, avoid taking any drugs or supplements containing vitamin E.
- acute condition of cholecystitis or pancreatitis
- extreme sensitivity to the supplement
- pathological conditions
You can take Omega-3 fatty acids supplements if you have adhered to recommendations on their storage.
Such supplements cannot be stored for more than 3 years. Keep the supplement in a cool and dry place.
Omega-3 for Pregnant Women
Official guidelines suggest consuming the daily recommended intake for adults and adding extra 200 mg of DHA during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
How Omega-6 Intake Affects Omega-3 Need
Typically, a Westerner consumes around 10 times more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3s.
Omega-6 intake comes largely from refined vegetable oils that are usually added to processed food (17).
It is believed that the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio should be closer to 2:1 to maintain good health.
The Omega-3 fatty acids need depends directly on your Omega-6s intake, since both Omega-3s and Omega-6s compete for the same enzymes (19).
The more Omega-6 fatty acids you consume, the more Omega-3s you need.
When You’ve Had Too Much Omega-3
According to the FDA, it is safe for you to use Omega-3 fatty acids supplements as long as the dosage does not exceed 2,000 mg per day (17).
However, the EFSA (European analogue of the FDA) went as far as stating that it is safe for you to take up to 5,000 mg of Omega-3 from supplements.
These kinds of restrictions exist for a reason.
According to numerous studies, the consumption of Omega-3s in the form of supplements may cause blood thinning or excessive bleeding in some people.
This is why you are recommended to stop taking Omega-3s a week or two before any surgeries (17).
Furthermore, since some Omega-3 supplements are high in vitamin A (particularly cod liver oil) and since vitamin A is extremely toxic when consumed in high amounts, restrictions on the use of Omega-3s exist.
Moreover, it has never been proven that the daily dose of more than 5,000 mg of Omega-3s could add any additional health benefits, which is why higher doses are considered to be useless.
And while the intake of up to 3,000–5,000 mg of Omega-3 supplements per day is considered to be safe, most people are unlikely to benefit from such a high dosage.