Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits.
The best way to reap them is by eating fatty fish at least twice per week, but if you don't eat fatty fish often, you should consider taking a supplement.
However, it’s important to make sure your supplement contains enough eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are the most useful types of omega-3 fats, and they are found in fatty fish and algae.
You can also get omega-3 from seeds and nuts, like flax seeds and walnuts. These foods contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a small part of which can be converted into EPA and DHA in your body (
This article reviews how much omega-3 you need for optimal health.
should get each day.
Various mainstream health organizations have released their own expert opinions, but they vary considerably.
However, higher amounts are often recommended for certain health conditions.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for alpha-linolenic acid is 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 grams per day for women (5).
SUMMARY To date, there is no official recommended daily allowance for EPA and DHA. However, most health organizations agree that 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA is enough for adults to maintain their overall health.
The following health conditions have been shown to respond to omega-3 supplements.
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 (
Depression and anxiety
In cases of mood and mental disorders, a supplement with higher amounts of EPA than DHA may be optimal.
However, correlation doesn’t equal causation. Controlled studies need to confirm whether your intake of omega-3 fatty acids affects your cancer risk.
SUMMARY Omega-3 fatty acids may relieve several health conditions. An effective dosage ranges from 200–4,000 mg.
Several global and national organizations have published guidelines for infants and children, ranging from 50–100 mg per day of combined EPA and DHA (9).
SUMMARY An additional 200 mg of DHA is recommended for pregnant and nursing women. The recommended dose for infants and children is 50–100 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day.
Therefore, if you wish to improve your omega-3 status, you should not only be sure to get enough omega-3 from your diet and supplements but also consider reducing your intake of vegetable oils high in omega-6.
SUMMARY Your body may function best with balanced amounts of omega-6 and omega-3.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that omega-3 supplements containing EPA and DHA are safe if 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 1–2 weeks 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 the risk is not worth taking.
SUMMARY Taking up to 3,000–5,000 mg of omega-3 per day appears to be safe, although such a high intake is likely not necessary for most people.
Omega-3 supplements, including fish oil, contain the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
It's important to read the label of your omega-3 supplement to figure out how much EPA and DHA it contains.
These amounts vary, and the labels can be confusing. For example, a product may provide 1,000 mg of fish oil, but its levels of these two fats could be much lower.
Depending on the concentration of EPA and DHA in a dose, you may need to take as many as eight capsules to reach the recommended amount.
For more information, you can consult this detailed guide to omega-3 supplements.
SUMMARY It's important to consider how much EPA and DHA there is in a supplement — not just how much fish oil it contains. This helps ensure that you're getting enough EPA and DHA.
When taking omega-3 supplements, always follow the instructions on the label.
However, keep in mind that omega-3 needs vary by individual. Some people may need to take more than others.
The recommended intake of alpha-linolenic acid is 1.6 grams per day for men and 1 gram per day for women.
In contrast, there are no official guidelines for the intake of long-chain omega-3s. Yet, health organizations generally recommend a minimum of 250 mg and a maximum of 3,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day, unless instructed otherwise by a health professional.