How Much Omega-3 Should You Take Per Day
A person’s daily omega-3 needs vary depending on their age, sex, and various health factors.
People give omega-3 fatty acids a lot of attention due to their health benefits. Fatty fish, nuts, and seeds are rich in omega-3s.
Omega-3s are important parts of the body’s cell membranes, and they help with the functioning of the heart, lungs, immune system, and hormone system.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acid:
- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
DHA levels are especially high in the eye, brain, and sperm cells. EPA may have certain benefits for reducing inflammation. The body breaks down ALA into EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate is low. For this reason, people should include all three omega-3s in their diet.
Fatty fish are high in DHA and EPA. Plant sources are high in ALA. If a person does not get enough of each type of omega-3 from their diet, they might consider taking a supplement.
This article will explore the recommended intake of omega-3s for different people to achieve optimal health.
What are the daily guidelines for omega-3?
Several national organizations have released guidelines for omega-3 intake, but they vary considerably.
As such, there is no absolute rule about how much omega-3 a person needs.
Research does suggest, however, that different groups of people need different amounts, and higher intakes of omega-3 can be helpful for certain health conditions. We discuss the dietary needs below.
Adult males and females
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are not enough data available to work out a recommended daily allowance of omega-3 for healthy adults. There are also no specific recommendations for EPA and DHA separately.
Other sources have estimated an adequate intake (AI) for omega-3s. AI is the amount a person needs to ensure nutritional adequacy.
One report from 2008 suggests that adult males and females should get around 0.25 grams (g) of EPA plus DHA per day for their AI.
For an AI of ALA, the NIH recommend 1.6 g for males and 1.1 g for females.
Omega-3 for specific health conditions
The following health conditions have been shown to respond to omega-3 supplements.
One study followed 11,000 people who took an 850-mg dose of combined EPA and DHA every day for 3.5 years. They experienced a 25% reduction in heart attacks and a 45% reduction in sudden death (4Trusted Source).
The American Heart Association, among other organizations, recommends that people with coronary heart disease take 1,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily, while those with high triglycerides take 2,000–4,000 mg daily (5Trusted Source, 6, 7).
However, several large reviews have not found any beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on heart disease (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
Depression and anxiety
Studies demonstrate that high doses of omega-3, ranging from 200–2,200 mg per day, can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety (10Trusted Source, 11, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
In cases of mood and mental disorders, a supplement with higher amounts of EPA than DHA may be optimal.
High consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to a reduced risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
However, correlation doesn’t equal causation. Controlled studies need to confirm whether your intake of omega-3 fatty acids affects your cancer risk.
Too much omega-3 can be harmful
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that omega-3 supplements are safe as long as doses don’t exceed 3,000 mg per day.
On the other hand, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) notes that up to 5,000 mg per day from supplements is safe.
These cautions are in place for several reasons. For one, omega-3s can cause blood thinning or excessive bleeding in some people.
For this reason, many organizations encourage people who are planning surgery to stop taking omega-3 supplements a week or two beforehand.
The second reason is due to vitamin A. This vitamin can be toxic in high amounts, and some omega-3 supplements (such as cod liver oil) are high in it.
Finally, taking more than 5,000 mg of omega-3s has never been shown to provide any added benefits. So don’t take the risk.
Omega-3 for depression
Some studies have suggested that taking omega-3 supplements may help with symptoms of depression.
One small-scale study of young adults with depressive symptoms reported that a group receiving 1.4 g of DHA plus EPA every day had a significantly lower depression status compared with a placebo group after 21 days.
Omega-3 Foods Intake Per Day
By this point, you may be wondering: How can I increase my omega-3 intake? In addition to supplementation, you can also get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet through food sources as well. Fatty fish, nuts and seeds are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, along with many other important vitamins and minerals.
Here are a few of the top food sources of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Atlantic mackerel
- Wild-caught salmon
- Cod liver oil
- Chia seeds
- Albacore tuna
- Hemp seeds
- Egg yolks
Ideally, it’s recommended to consume at least two servings of fatty fish per week to meet your omega-3 needs. However, if you don’t regularly consume fish, you can also add a variety of other omega-3 foods into your diet to help get in your daily dose.
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