Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fats, offer abundant health benefits. Notably, they support brain, skin, and heart health, reduce inflammation, and provide protection against various chronic conditions. While the body can synthesise most necessary fats from other fats or carbohydrates, this capability does not extend to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Therefore, obtaining these essential fats through dietary means becomes vital.
Marine organisms, such as algae and phytoplankton, are natural producers of omega-3 fatty acids. When these organisms are consumed by fish, aquatic mammals, and crustaceans, the omega-3 fatty acids become part of the food chain. Consequently, when humans consume these fishes, they obtain omega-3 fatty acids as part of their diet. Therefore, one optimal approach to ensuring an ample intake of omega-3 is through incorporating fatty fish into the diet at least twice a week.
For people who don’t consume significant amounts of fatty fish and/or are vegetarian or have altered dietary requirements, considering an omega-3 supplement is a practical option. Vegan fish oil alternatives and vegan DHA supplements are also cost-effective options for vegetarians and vegans facing difficulty meeting the recommended omega-3 levels through their usual dietary choices.
Given the variety of omega-3 supplements on the market, this article will provide all the essential information about these supplements, helping you make informed choices.
There are two primary fat types: saturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats, found in nuts, seeds, oils, fatty fish, and avocados, are the healthier option. There are different types of unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3s belong to the class of polyunsaturated fats and offer more nutritional benefits compared to saturated fats.
There are three major types of omega-3 fatty acids, each with unique benefits:
ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid)
ALA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid derived from plant sources like oil, seeds, and nuts. The body can convert a small amount of dietary ALA into EPA and DHA. However, the conversion process produces only a minimal quantity of EPA and DHA, which may be insufficient to meet daily requirements.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
EPA is basically marine omega-3, found in fish and fish oil. EPA aids in reducing blood triglyceride levels, preventing blood vessel clogging, and inhibiting platelet aggregation, which are the heart disease and stroke triggers.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
It is also a marine omega-3 found in fish that plays a role in the development of the brain and eyes. It contributes to the strength and prevention of deterioration in brain function, learning, memory, and the efficient functioning of the visual system. It is also essential for cardiovascular health.
For people following a vegetarian or vegan diet, alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids are accessible. Plant-based options such as nuts, seeds, soy products, and specific green leafy vegetables can provide these essential nutrients. However, if incorporating enough omega-3-rich foods proves challenging, there are readily available omega-3 supplements in the market. Omega-3 supplements are dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids.
These supplements, with varying concentrations of EPA and DHA, offer a convenient solution to ensure an adequate intake of these essential fatty acids. It can be particularly advantageous for people with specific dietary restrictions or preferences, such as:
Taking fish oil and other omega-3 supplements is considered safe during pregnancy. Adequate intake of omega-3s during this period serves as essential building blocks for the foetal brain and retina. These supplements are available in various forms, such as liquid, soft chews, and soft gels. However, it’s essential to ensure that the chosen brand of omega-3 supplements is both safe and of high quality.
While cod liver oil is a good source of DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, avoid it during pregnancy. It is due to the presence of a form of vitamin A in cod liver oil that may lead to congenital disabilities, especially if consumed in the first trimester.
Children diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) may show lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Several small-scale studies show the potential of fish oil supplements as a treatment for ADHD. These studies suggest that such supplements enhance behaviour, diminish hyperactivity, and improve attention in children under the age of 12. However, further research is needed to establish the effectiveness of omega-3 supplements as a consistent and reliable treatment for ADHD.
The risks of severe conditions like heart disease grow as you get older. Research indicates that individuals who incorporate fatty fish into their diet twice a week tend to have lower rates of heart disease. The consumption of fish oil, either through foods or supplements, resulted in a 32% reduction in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Here are some health benefits of consuming omega-3 from foods and dietary supplements:
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends daily omega-3 supplements containing EPA and DHA for individuals with coronary heart disease or heart failure. While optimal dosages require further research, some studies suggest around 1,000 mg per day, with a higher dose of 4,000 mg daily for people with high triglycerides.
Omega-3 fatty acids exhibit anti-inflammatory effects in the body. It helps in lowering markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. As potent lipids, they contribute to reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, offering protection against chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, and cancers.
Omega-3s protect cell membranes, including those around brain cells, due to their antioxidants. This protective function potentially prevents Alzheimer’s disease and related complications. Additionally, omega-3s exhibit an anti-inflammatory effect on blood vessels in the brain, aiding in the prevention of cognitive decline.
High doses of omega-3, ranging from 200–2,200 mg per day, may reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. Supplements with higher EPA content are more likely to be beneficial than those with higher DHA. However, some studies suggest too many omega-3 supplements have limited effect in preventing depression or anxiety symptoms.
Supplementing with a minimum of 1.2 g of DHA daily can significantly reduce triglyceride levels and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. Also, replacing dietary saturated fats with omega-3 fatty acids contributes to lowering low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.
Omega-3 supplements come in several forms, such as:
Omega-3 oils are commonly available in the form of capsules or soft gels. Consumers prefer them due to their lack of fishy taste and ease of swallowing. These capsules typically have a soft gelatin layer, and many manufacturers include enteric coating. Enteric coating delays the capsule’s dissolution until it reaches the small intestine.
Natural fish oil, capsules or liquid form, comes from the tissue of oily fish. It is typically in the form of triglycerides, making it the closest thing to real fish. It contains omega-3s (EPA and DHA) ranging from 18–31%, though the specific amount varies among fish species. Familiar sources include salmon, sardines, herring, menhaden, and cod liver.
Processed fish oil undergoes purification and concentration. It removes contaminants like mercury and PCBs. Some oils contain up to 50–90% pure EPA and DHA.
Processed fish oils, particularly in the form of ethyl esters, are affordable and widely used as capsules. However, the body less effectively absorbs them. Plus, they are more susceptible to oxidation and rancidity.
Krill oil, derived from Antarctic krill, contains omega-3s in both triglyceride and phospholipid forms. Studies show that the absorption of omega-3 from the phospholipids in krill oil is comparable to, and sometimes even better than, fish oil.
The small size and short lifespan of krill mean they accumulate fewer contaminants over their lifetime. Moreover, krill oil is notably resistant to oxidation due to the presence of the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin.
The green-lipped mussel, native to New Zealand, typically provides oil in the form of triglycerides and free fatty acids. Apart from the well-known EPA and DHA, it also contains trace amounts of eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA). It is a rare omega-3 fatty acid believed to be particularly effective at reducing inflammation. Opting for green-lipped mussel oil instead of fish oil is considered environmentally friendly.
Mammalian omega-3 oil, derived from seal blubber, has natural triglycerides. Beyond containing EPA and DHA, it has relatively high levels of docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), another omega-3 fatty acid. Notably, mammalian omega-3 oil is exceptionally low in omega-6 fatty acids.
ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid, is the plant-based form of omega-3s. It is abundant in sources like flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. While your body can convert ALA into EPA or DHA, this conversion process is not very efficient. Additionally, most plant oils tend to have higher levels of omega-6s compared to omega-3s.
Consuming 2000–3000 mg of EPA and DHA combined per day is generally sufficient to meet the omega-3 needs of most adults. Fish oil capsules claim to have 1000 mg, making it sound like a hefty dose. However, that fish oil is only partially made up of omega-3s. Natural (non-concentrated) fish oils typically contain around 30% EPA and DHA combined. Therefore, a 1000 mg fish oil capsule would provide about 300 mg of EPA and DHA. Krill oil capsules, which are another source of omega-3s, may have even lower percentages.
Concentrated omega-3 products provide higher levels of EPA and DHA per serving, making it possible to achieve recommended amounts with fewer capsules. Nonetheless, there are instances where, despite the concentrated formulation, meeting specific recommended doses may require the consumption of multiple pills.
It’s important to note that individual needs may vary based on factors such as age, health conditions, and specific dietary patterns. Additionally, certain groups, such as pregnant women and those with medical conditions, may require higher levels of EPA and DHA.
The choice of when to take omega-3 supplements often depends on personal preferences and the individual’s response to the supplements. If fishy aftertaste or breath is a concern, take the supplements with a meal or before bedtime. For personalised advice on omega-3 intake, consult with a healthcare professional who can consider individual health needs and circumstances.
Choosing the right Omega-3 supplement can be confusing with the countless options available in the market. Each person’s needs are unique, and finding a supplement that fits these needs is crucial in reaping the full benefits of Omega-3. Here’s a simple guide to help you make an informed decision:
For those looking for a reliable place to find their Omega-3 supplements, the HealthifyMe store stands out. It offers a curated selection of supplements that are meticulously formulated to meet the consumers’ needs. Each product in the HealthifyMe store is chosen with a focus on purity, efficacy, and sustainability, ensuring that you get the best Omega-3 supplements tailored to support your health journey.
By choosing your Omega-3 supplements from the HealthifyMe store, you can rest assured that you’re not just taking a step towards better health but also making a choice that’s informed, safe, and aligned with your wellness goals. Whether you’re looking to support your heart health, boost brain function, or improve overall well-being, the HealthifyMe store has got you covered with high-quality Omega-3 supplements.
The side effects of fish oil depend on various factors, including overall health, medication intake, and the presence of any health risks. Below are common side effects of Omega-3 supplements and groups of individuals who should exercise caution or avoid them.
Allergies: People with fish or seafood allergies should avoid fish oil supplements.
Bleeding Disorders: Taking omega-3s with anticoagulants or medications may increase the risk of bleeding. Therefore, those using blood thinners, such as warfarin, should avoid overdosing on fish oil or other omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
Medication Interactions: Omega-3 supplements may interact with certain medications. It’s essential to inform your doctor about all supplements and medications being taken to avoid potential interactions.
Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Symptoms may manifest as nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, or vomiting. Adjusting the supplement dosage or taking fish oil with food can alleviate these symptoms in some cases. However, if issues persist, discontinuing the use of fish oil supplements may be necessary.
Prostate Cancer: The relationship between fish oil and prostate cancer is a topic with mixed evidence. In a 2013 study involving 2,268 older men, there was an indication that fish oil might have a role in slowing the progression of prostate cancer. However, other research suggests a potential association between increased consumption of salted or smoked fish and a higher likelihood of developing prostate cancer.
While omega-3 supplements can be beneficial for many people, always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen. HealthifyMe’s nutritionists can offer tailored guidance on incorporating omega-3 supplements into your overall nutrition plan. With the advice of a qualified nutritionist, you can follow a personalised supplement plan that not only addresses your omega-3 needs but also aligns with your overall health and wellness goals.
Starting on a journey to incorporate supplements into one’s diet and achieve weight loss goals is made seamless with HealthifyMe’s comprehensive health and fitness platform. Integrated with continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and personalised nutrition counselling, HealthifyMe offers a holistic approach to lifestyle management.
The HealthifyMe app is designed with consideration for a diverse age group, ensuring a simple yet sophisticated user interface. You can easily manage and track various aspects of your health, be it calorie counting or tracking your daily hydration. With daily and weekly insights, macro or micronutrient tracking, and a collection of healthy recipes, HealthifyMe plans to ensure a unique wellness journey with AI-based guidance and one-on-one consultation.
Taking an omega-3 supplement daily is a great idea, especially because even if you are a non-vegetarian, the chances of you eating fatty fish daily and in quantities to meet your nutrient requirements are rare. HealthifyMe has a well-curated omega-3 supplement that you can consider taking. Speak to your nutritionist first to discuss your need for a supplement and the dosage.
Omega-3 fatty acids, with their numerous health benefits, assist in supporting overall well-being. Whether obtained through dietary sources like fatty fish or supplements in various forms, these essential fats contribute to brain, skin, and heart health, reduce inflammation, and provide protection against chronic conditions.
While incorporating fatty fish into the diet is an optimal way to ensure an ample omega-3 intake, diverse supplement options cater to different preferences and dietary restrictions. It is essential to be mindful of supplement forms, concentrations, and potential interactions. Seeking personalised advice from HealthifyMe nutritionists can help make informed choices about omega-3 supplementation. When possible, aim to obtain your omega-3 fatty acids from whole foods rather than relying solely on supplements.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here.
A: Omega-3 supplements are dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids. These supplements provide alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They support cardiovascular health, promote brain function, and have anti-inflammatory properties.
A: Speaking to nutritionists from a reputed wellness platform, like HealthifyMe, can help understand what dietary choices work best for an individual. These professionals can provide tailored advice, taking into account specific health goals, preferences, and any unique considerations.
A: No, you must aim to obtain your omega-3 fatty acids from whole foods rather than relying solely on supplements. While supplements offer a concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids, they do not replicate all the nutritional benefits of fatty fish.
A: For conditions like joint pain or arthritis, Omega-3 supplements may have anti-inflammatory effects. Regular intake may contribute to better memory and cognitive performance, but noticeable results may take time. Omega-3 supplements are not instant remedies, and results may be gradual.
A: There are potential interactions with certain medications, particularly anticoagulants. Those with fish or seafood allergies should also be cautious when using fish oil supplements.
A: Regular consumption of fatty fish or Omega-3 supplements may lower the risk of heart disease. It can help lower triglyceride levels, improve blood vessel function, and reduce inflammation.
A: Consuming 2000–3000 mg of EPA and DHA combined per day is generally sufficient to meet the omega-3 needs of most adults. Yes, the recommended dosage may vary for different age groups. Pregnant women, children, and older adults often have specific requirements.
A: You can start by taking them with meals or before bedtime to minimise potential side effects like “fishy breath.” Also, limit the consumption of high-mercury fish. Additionally, avoid excessive intake of saturated and trans fats.
A: Omega-3s can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with certain anticoagulants or medications. If you are taking blood thinners like warfarin, it’s essential to be cautious.
A: Yes, it’s generally safe to take Omega-3 supplements during pregnancy. Omega-3 fatty acids promote foetal brain and retina development. However, it’s essential to choose a safe and high-quality supplement.