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A person’s daily need for omega-3s varies based on age, gender, and various health factors.
People pay a lot of attention to omega-3 fatty acids because of their health benefits. Oily fish, nuts, and seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of the body’s cell membranes and help the heart, lungs, immune and endocrine systems function.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA)
The DHA level is particularly high in the eye, in the brain and in the sperm cells. EPA can have certain benefits in reducing inflammation. The body breaks down ALA into EPA and DHA, but the rate of conversion is low. For this reason, people should include all three omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.
Oily fish is high in DHA and EPA. Plant sources are rich in ALA. If a person is not getting enough of any type of omega-3 from their diet, they might consider taking a supplement.
This article examines the recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids for different people in order to achieve optimal health.
Share on PinterestDaily guidelines for omega-3 fatty acid intake vary based on factors such as age.
Several national organizations have published guidelines for the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, but they vary considerably.
Therefore, there is no absolute rule about how much omega-3 a person needs.
However, research suggests that different groups of people may need different amounts and a higher intake of omega-3 may be helpful for certain health conditions. We discuss nutritional needs below.
Adult males and females
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is insufficient data to determine a recommended daily allowance of omega-3 for healthy adults. There are also no separate recommendations for EPA and DHA.
Other sources have estimated adequate intake (AI) for omega-3 fatty acids. AI is the amount a person needs to ensure adequate nutrition.
A 2008 report suggests that adult men and women should get around 0.25 grams (g) EPA plus DHA per day for their AI.
For an AI of ALA, the NIH recommends 1.6 g for men and 1.1 g for women.
Pregnancy, breastfeeding and children
People should add more omega-3s to their diets during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as follows:
- 0.3 g EPA plus DHA, of which at least 0.2 g DHA
- 1.4 g of ALA during pregnancy
- 1.3 g ALA during breastfeeding
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that women who could become pregnant breastfeed and young children should include more fish in their diets each week. They recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat 8 to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish every week to help promote fetal growth and development.
Male and female infants up to 1 year of age should consume a total of 0.5 g of omega-3 fatty acids. Breast milk contains ALA, DHA and EPA for breastfed infants.
A comprehensive review from 2018 reported that omega-3s could have benefits in heart disease.
A 2002 study published in the journal Circulation recommended that people with cardiovascular disease consume about 1 g of EPA plus DHA daily, preferably from oily fish. However, you can talk to your doctor about taking supplements. That is, updated guidelines are required.
Researchers have conducted many studies to evaluate the effects of taking omega-3 supplements on heart disease.
One review found that there was a slight decrease in mortality in people with established coronary artery disease, as well as in people with heart failure. However, the results are mixed with those of another large study that concluded that DHA and EPA supplements may have little effect while ALA might have little effect. More research is needed.
Some studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements can help with symptoms of depression.
A small study in young adults with depressive symptoms reported that a group that received 1.4 g of DHA plus EPA daily had a significantly lower level of depression compared to a placebo group after 21 days.
Omega-3 supplements could also have the potential to treat Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
A 2018 review found that omega-3s can be beneficial in early Alzheimer’s disease when brain function is only marginally impaired.
However, there isn’t enough data to support the use of omega-3 supplements in more advanced cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
Many studies have looked at the beneficial effects of omega-3 supplementation on certain types of cancer.
A 2017 study reported that combining omega-3 and vitamin D supplements increased cell death in certain subtypes of breast cancer cells.
In a review of omega-3s and prostate cancer, some researchers found a link between higher omega-3 intake and lower mortality from prostate cancer.
There is no set upper limit for omega-3 intake. According to the NIH, the FDA has suggested that people shouldn’t take more than 3 grams of DHA and EPA combined per day.
Scientists say that omega-3 can reduce the function of the immune system over long periods of time because it decreases the body’s inflammatory responses.
High doses of omega-3s can also increase bleeding time. Therefore, people taking blood thinning medications should be careful and speak to their doctor before starting any omega-3 supplement.
Few symptoms of omega-3 deficiency are known. Doctors have found links between deficiencies in essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, and symptoms of dermatitis and rough, flaky skin.
Researchers don’t know if there is a certain threshold level for DHA and EPA in the body that could increase the risk of neurological or immunological dysfunction.
Omega-3 deficiency is very rare in the United States.
Share on PinterestFlaxseed is an omega-3 source that is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
If a person is unable to get enough omega-3s in their diet, they might consider taking a supplement. Talk to a doctor before taking any new supplements.
The ingredients of omega-3 supplements vary widely. People may want to check the product label to see what exactly their supplement contains.
The amount of each ingredient can vary between batches of the same product because the FDA does not regulate the quality of omega-3 supplements.
A typical omega-3 supplement provides around 1 g of fish oil and varying dosages of EPA and DHA.
The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have the best-researched health benefits, are found in fish oil, krill oil, and cod liver oil.
Vegetable algae oil provides about 0.1 g-0.3 g DHA, and some also contain EPA. Other herbal supplements such as flaxseed capsules only provide ALA fatty acids.
Although seafood can contain heavy metals, scientists haven’t found them in omega-3 supplements because manufacturers remove them during processing and cleaning.
People can find omega-3 supplements in health food stores or choose from a number of brands in online stores:
The amount of omega-3 a person needs depends on their age, gender, and health status. People should eat oily fish twice a week for adequate EPA and DHA, and should include plant-based sources of ALA in their diet.
Health sources recommend that people shouldn’t exceed 3 g of omega-3s per day unless a doctor has directed otherwise.
If a person isn’t eating fish, taking an omega-3 supplement may be a good idea. Read the label of any supplement carefully and talk to a doctor before taking any new supplements. References