Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits.

The best way to get them is by eating fatty fish at least twice a 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 EPA and DHA. These are the most useful types of omega-3 fats and are found in fatty fish and algae.

This article reviews how much omega-3 you need for optimal health.

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There is no set standard for how much omega-3 you should get each day.

Various mainstream health organizations have released their own expert opinions, but they vary considerably.

Overall, most of these organizations recommend a minimum of 250–500 mg combined EPA and DHA each day for healthy adults (1, 2, 3).

However, higher amounts are often recommended for certain health conditions.

You can shop for omega-3 supplements online.

SUMMARY To date, there is no official recommended daily allowance for omega-3s. However, most health organizations agree that 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA is enough for adults to maintain overall health.

The following health conditions have been shown to respond to omega-3 supplements.

Heart disease

One study followed 11,000 people who took an 850-mg dose of combined EPA and DHA every day for 3.5 years. They experienced a 25% reduction in heart attacks and a 45% reduction in sudden death (4).

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 (5, 6, 7).

However, several large reviews have not found any beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on heart disease (8, 9).

Depression and anxiety

Studies demonstrate that high doses of omega-3, ranging from 200–2,200 mg per day, can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety (10, 11, 12, 13).

In cases of mood and mental disorders, a supplement with higher amounts of EPA than DHA may be optimal.

Cancer

High consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to a reduced risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers (14, 15, 16, 17).

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.

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are vital before, during, and after pregnancy (18, 19, 20, 21).

Nearly all official guidelines recommend adding 200 mg of DHA during pregnancy and breastfeeding in addition to your regular dosage (22, 23, 24).

Several global and national organizations have published guidelines for infants and children, ranging from 50–100 mg per day of combined EPA and DHA (7).

SUMMARY An additional 200 mg of DHA is recommended for pregnant and nursing mothers. The recommended dose for infants and children is 50–100 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day.

The typical Western diet contains around 10 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. These omega-6 fatty acids come mainly from refined vegetable oils that are added to processed food (25, 26).

Many experts believe that this ratio should be closer to 2:1 omega-6 to omega-3 for optimal health (27).

Omega-6s and omega-3s compete for the same enzymes, which convert the fatty acids into their biologically active forms (28, 29).

Therefore, if you wish to improve your omega-3 status, you shouldn’t only make sure to get enough omega-3 from your diet and supplements — you should 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 are safe as long as 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 a week or two 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 don't take the risk.

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.

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 actual 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 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 people have different omega-3 needs. Some people may need to take more than others.

Aim for 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.