Capt. Hibbeln, M.D., shares the optimal levels of omega-3 fatty acids that can help protect you from disease.
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Protection Against Disease Now this question you ask of how much should a women take? Well, it depends on how well you want to be protected from disease. At a minimum a good starting point is to take enough to achieve blood levels that are common in the Mediterranean. And those blood levels, if you were to get your blood test, would be about 50:50 – the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids to the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. If you want even more optimal health you can get to Japanese levels where about 60 percent of the omega-3s and 40 percent are the omega-6s. Or you can aim well away to Eskimo health but you may need to take four to five fish meals a day and take a lot of supplements. What we did was to calculate a dosage that fits the Institute of Medicine Food Nutrition’s Board statistical definition and statistical methods for protecting 98 percent of the population from signs of deficiency. And again I say that signs of deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids are mental ill health. They don’t appear on the skin; they appear in brain function. And we looked at doses required in pregnancy and doses required in 16 different disease models, and for most European and world populations it’s about a gram a day of EPA plus DHA. Now it may take you two, one, two or four capsules of omega-3 fatty acids to actually get that EPA and DHA delivered because some 1,000 milligram capsules are full with EPA and DHA. However, some capsules, 1,000 milligram capsules, have only 50 percent EPA and DHA. And the cheapest ones only have 3300 milligrams of EPA and DHA. So you have to really carefully look at the labels and calculate it out. Again, the dosage of omega-3 fatty acids you need to take to reach those blood levels also depend upon the background levels of the omega-6 fatty acids competing for space in your body. And I strongly feel and it’s my personal opinion, all these recommendations and calculations are my personal opinion and not any part of the policy or the program of the National Institute of Health of the U.S. government, this is just me as a scientist speaking. When people switch away from soybean oil and use high oleic sunflower, safflower and olive oil, they can reduce their omega-3 needs almost tenfold.