Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that is vital for the body to function properly. But it is not created naturally within the body. So how much omega 3 do you need?
To answer that, first we need to understand a little bit more about omega 3 itself.
There are 3 main types of omega 3. But don’t worry about the long sounding names, everybody refers to them using their 3 letter shortened version:-
- alphalinolenic acid = ALA
- eicosapentaenoic acid = EPA
- docosahexaenoic acid = DHA
And the amount of omega 3 we need is defined in terms of EPA and DHA.
There are numerous sources of omega 3 fatty acids, with probably fish being the best known – and I’d guess spinach and basil being the least known! The quantities of omega 3 and EPA/DHA vary enormously across these food types though.
Fish Oil for Omega 3
Fish is commonly regarded as the best source of omega 3, particularly when it comes to that all important DHA.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat fish at least 2 times per week. Yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have all sorts of advice about heavily limiting the amount of fish we eat due to serious concerns about high levels of mercury and other contamination from our polluted seas.
Which is why fish oil capsules are the most widely used supplement for omega 3. Because a fish oil supplement can be filtered to remove the toxins without damaging the beneficial oils.
Most of the clinical studies and trials that show health benefits from omega 3, actually show DHA as the key substance responsible for those benefits. That makes DHA critical when looking at how much omega 3 you need. Read more in Fish Oil Capsules With A High DHA Quantity Are The Key
So how much omega 3 do you need per day? It depends on how much EPA and DHA are in each capsule. And that varies enormously according to the species of fish the oil is being sourced from.
So you really need to check the label closely to see how much ALA, EPA and DHA there is in each capsule. And don’t trust a product that doesn’t give you that information, as the likely answer could be ‘very little’!
Omega 3 Recommendations
It’s important to note that as yet, there are no RDA’s for omega 3 despite the strong scientific evidence for ensuring a good daily supply of these nutrients. But the fact is, it takes a long time for Governments to issue or update such guidelines.
However as a guideline you can aim for a minimum of 250mg per day of EPA and DHA.
This is the level recommended by Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH / Rimm, ScD to get the primary benefit of a significantly reduced risk of dying as a result coronary issues.
Those already suffering with coronary heart diseases are usually advised to consume no more than 1g of EPA and DHA per day. But those with high blood cholesterol levels are often recommended to consume 2-4 g of EPA and DHA per day on a regular basis.
The most beneficial quantity for normal daily consumption therefore probably lies somewhere between those figures of 250mg and 4g per day.
It’s always recommended to consult a trusted health practitioner before adding fish oil capsules to a regular diet. Although fish oil has been proven to be beneficial in so many situations, those suffering from existing ailments should in particular take care. Since fish oil is a natural blood thinner, it’s advisable for anyone taking blood thinning medication or who suffers from anemia to get professional advice from a doctor to see if they are compatible with fish oil.
A Personal View
Decent quality fish oil capsules generally contain around 180mg of EPA and 120mg of DHA. The ones I take every day contain 260mg of EPA and 600mg of DHA per 2 capsule daily serving – so they are particularly good on that really important DHA.
And whilst it would be nice if Governments could catch up with modern research faster, I certainly didn’t wait for recommended daily amounts (RDA’s) to be published before increasing my omega 3 intake. The research is just too strong to ignore it that long!