How Much Omega-3 Should You Take a Day? Secrets Exposed
Are you still considering a fish oil supplement?
They’ve become very popular over the last decade, but a lot of us are still on the fence.
That’s because many of us...
...myself included... are concerned about overfishing, bad science, and heavy metal toxicity.
Seriously, the more you read, the more confusing it becomes.
It gets better/worse:
We have to weigh those concerns against the fact that we need omega-3 fatty acids!
I’ve spoken about the importance of this before. I do encourage you to brush up on why it’s essential before we move forward.
Today, we’re looking into how much omega-3 we should take, how we should get it, and who needs it most.
Along the way, we’ll find some of fish oil’s biggest secrets exposed.
You should know omega-6 and omega-3 balance is critical.
But you're probably wondering:
So how do you address it?
You want to know the best part?
Stay with me. The following info will help you decide.
Omega-3s: Fantastic or Fishy?
How Much Omega-3 Should You Take a Day? Secrets Exposed
What’s the big secret I’m talking about?
Regardless of what you think about supplements, fish oil didn’t become so popular by word of mouth.
Fish oil started getting attention when two Danish scientists studied the Inuit population.
Their findings suggested that the amount of fish they ate lowered their risk of suffering from high cholesterol and heart disease.
But wait, there's more:
...there’s plenty of research out there indicating that healthy omega-3 levels can improve a range of conditions.
A lot of health professionals explain that the best source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish.
Compared to other nations, Americans don’t eat a lot of fish (although that may be changing).
Understandably, many people are drawn to supplements so they don’t have to buy and prepare something they don’t normally eat.
It’s also thought that higher concentrations of the good stuff can be found by popping a few pills, as opposed to forcing down fish every day.
But what really has us scrambling after capsules of crushed fish?
Is it just some weird thing humans do in the 21st century, or is it pure genius?
And there’s plenty more...
Are Omega-3 Supplements for You?
...if something seems good, we want it.
Reading about all the great benefits of an omega-3 supplement, who wouldn’t go for it?
To be clear, eating omega-3’s is essential, since our bodies don’t make it.
But taking a pill containing a substance reported to contain another substance, which may be good for us?
The benefits aren’t as clear there, especially since studies use specific formulas, dosages, concentrations, and forms.
Sometimes, I find myself struggling to explain how exactly a good, whole foods diet leads to better health.
But that doesn’t discourage me in the least.
Because on many fronts, how we enjoy certain foods - not on the whole - isn’t completely known.
We do know enough to say that unprocessed foods full of vitamins and minerals are better for our health.
So, taking one reportedly good component from something else and saying it will cure what we think it will?
When you put it that way, it’s a bit of a stretch.
This is one reason why we all do our due diligence in supplement selection.
Additionally, conflicting studies make it hard on us.
There’s some promising research related to omega-3s that I shared above, and I think it’s appropriate to consider it.
But honestly, there’s a ton of conflicting info.
How is this all possible? Here’s a clue:
Such as these 3 case in point studies:
Surely, if we were all scientists, or could compare the details of each study, we could figure this out.
But we’re not.
We’re just regular people, trying to sort out what’s best for our health.
That said, there are a few groups of people who might enjoy discussing fish oil with a healthcare professional.
I’ll explain with examples:
1. Pregnant women
But at the same time, it’s substantially more important for those nurturing new life to get essential fatty acids.
Moreover, pregnant women have to take exceptional care to keep their immune systems working optimally.
So, it makes sense for pregnant women to take a purified fish oil supplement during pregnancy.
It encourages healthy brain development in their child.
Additionally, DHA supplements may reduce the risk of early labor or pre- and post-partum depressive disorders.
2. Those who don’t eat enough greens
We all wonder if we aren’t deficient in something.
But abetalipoproteinemia (whew) is usually an inherited disorder.
It’s pretty rare, but most often accompanies a vitamin E deficiency, since it means you have trouble absorbing fats.
Plain old vitamin E deficiency, called hypovitaminosis E, is typically caused by this and other rare disorders involving fat absorption.
But it’s also seen in people who were born with a low birth weight.
Common symptoms of deficiency include vision problems, anemia, and a weak immune system.
In genetic deficiencies, this is compounded by neurological and muscular symptoms.
Wait, there's more:
I’m explaining this so I don’t mislead those who may have a genetic deficiency.
If a genetic disorder is to blame for any deficiency, all supplementation should occur under doctor supervision.
That’s because, astonishingly, fish oil can deplete the amount of vitamin E in the system.
This leaves the sufferer exposed to their condition worsening. Unfortunately, this is left out of a lot of information about fish oil.
Yet, fish oil supplements can be useful to those who don’t get a lot of vitamin E in their diet.
Bold promise? Definitely.
This includes people who don’t eat enough greens, nuts, and plant oils.
Watch what you eat for a few weeks.
If spinach, chard, almonds, or olive and coconut oils are nowhere to be seen, think about an omega-3 supplement.
Don’t take it just because you read that it’s good for a vitamin E deficiency; that’s incomplete information.
3. You’ve suffered from heart problems
Omega-3 supplements most likely won’t prevent a heart attack from happening.
But some doctors do acknowledge that they can be helpful if you’ve already had a heart attack.
Indeed, the American Heart Association estimates that fish oil supplements reduce death from heart disease by ten percent.
Roughly the same percentage sees a reduction in hospitalization and death during heart failure.
Studies suggest that omega-3 fish oil supplements can lower triglycerides, but not cholesterol.
The main reason it’s given to patients with heart disease is that it’s generally safe to do so.
Whether it will work, or not, is up in the air.
Fish oil supplements are in the top three most-taken supplements. A lot of these people report taking it for heart health.
It’s clear that this is a big draw for consumers. Then again, doctors say it might be more of a safeguard for those who already have heart trouble.
So, stay with me, there is more.
Food and Fish Oil: How Much Omega-3 Should You Take a Day? Secrets Exposed
The diet and supplement arena can be a treacherous landscape full of conflicting research and low-quality products.
So what to do?
How much to take?
I think I have it (somewhat) figured out.
First, everyone needs to work food sources of omega-3 in daily.
Some of these foods are easy to find and eat regularly.
Omega-3-rich foods include animal and plant sources.
Animal (fish) sources provide the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA.
Plant sources include the harder-to-convert omega-3 fatty acid ALA, with some rarer forms of DHA and EPA.
If you plan to get omega-3 from seeds and nuts, you’ll have to eat more to get a more “therapeutic” amount.
Moreover, vegans and vegetarians can get the convenience of a pill by taking an algae oil supplement instead.
But eating omega-3s will not be effective if the rest of your lifestyle isn’t up to par.
Your diet will impact your conversion rate!
So if you’re eating a lot of saturated fat and/or drinking heavily, it won’t have the benefits it could.
I’ll have more details on how you can improve your omega-3s a bit later.
To get fish oil benefits from eating fish, you’d have a few servings per week.
It can be difficult to get “enough”, since a recommended amount of DHA and EPA haven’t been established.
But, the suggested two-plus servings of fish per week is about 500 daily milligrams.
How about fish oil dosage?
Should we strive for 500 mg daily?
...funny I should say “fish oil dosage” because that’s not what matters.
2500 mg of fish oil says nothing about how many milligrams of omega-3s you’re getting, and therein lies a big problem.
One of the biggest secrets to choosing the right supplement is getting around misleading labels.
If you want a fish oil supplement, look only at the amount of EPA/DHA provided.
250-500 mg per day should be good enough if you’re not addressing a particular health concern.
If a doctor is using fish oil to treat a certain condition, they may recommend something in the 1000 mg range.
There seems to be a consensus that taking around 2000 mg per day of EPA/DHA is an acceptable limit.
The bottom line is that it’s hard to say how much, because there isn’t an official guideline.
It’s best to follow the directions on the bottle, although you may want to build your way up to the full dosage.
The Case for Gradually Increasing Intake
Even vegan algae oil can cause digestive discomfort.
And with animal sources, we have my least favorite word combination ever: fishy burps.
Combine that with bloating, and I wouldn’t blame you for pushing the bottle to the back of the cabinet.
If you look at various bottles of fish oil, you’ll notice that a daily dose involves taking many pills per day.
But there’s no harm in taking one pill and, after a week, bumping it up to two. This way, you’re less likely to encounter distressing side effects.
It is important that you discuss fish oil supplements with a doctor if you’re on blood thinners. Both are anti-coagulant, and nosebleeds are one possible side effect.
Worried about mercury and PCBs?
Here’s the deal:
Eating fish is another story, and will need more information about sourcing.
Speaking of sourcing, the environmentally-conscious should feel free to ask the manufacturer plenty of questions before purchase.
It’s rarely that we reach out to a company before buying something as simple as some vitamins, but we should.
And more importantly...
...manufacturer representatives should be prepared to answer you.
Are their practices ecologically sound?
Do they use independent fishermen?
They can also give you valuable information about third-party testing.
Final Word about: How Much Omega-3 Should You Take a Day? Secrets Exposed
After a comprehensive look, I feel confident in saying that omega-3 fish oil can lower triglycerides.
But there’s a lot of back-and-forth in the scientific community about other uses for fish oil.
This makes me wonder if we aren’t all being subjected to a lot of fishy hype.
Furthermore, I think that it’s possible to meet normal omega-3 levels by sticking to a variety of plant-based choices.
The whole goal here is to add more omega-3 to counter our high omega-6 consumption.
Omega-6 foods to counteract include:
As a rule of thumb, I assume that 10% of my plant-source ALA will be converted to DHA.
True... it’s hard to get as much as you do from fish.
But you can also visit an international market to try out certain sea vegetables.
These may contain DHA and EPA - no fish needed.
Heightening your awareness about omega-6 and omega-3 balance is a great reason to try new foods.
I want to know what you think: do you take fish oil?
Why does your preferred brand work for you?
Does reading conflicting research drive you nuts, or do you have one source you trust above all others?
Please share and I’ll be back with more health and nutrition secrets soon.