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.
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.
This article reviews how much omega-3 you need for optimal health.
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 (6).
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 (AHA) recommends that people with coronary heart disease or heart failure take omega-3 supplements containing EPA and DHA daily. More research is needed to establish the ideal dose, but most studies have used about 1,000 mg per day. For people with high triglycerides, the AHA recommends a dose of 4,000 mg per day (
Overall, evidence is stronger for the benefits of omega-3 supplements in people with a history of heart disease rather than generally healthy people (
Depression and anxiety
In cases of mood and mental disorders, a supplement with higher amounts of EPA is more likely to have a beneficial effect than one with higher DHA.
However, some research suggests that omega-3 supplements had little or no effect in preventing depression or anxiety symptoms. More research is needed (
However, correlation doesn’t equal causation. Controlled studies need to confirm whether your intake of omega-3 fatty acids affects your cancer risk.
Omega-3 fatty acids may relieve several health conditions. An effective dosage ranges from 200–4,000 mg.
The FDA suggests 2 servings of fish or seafood per week for children. Serving size depends on age (
- 1 ounce at ages 1–3
- 2 ounces at ages 4–7
- 3 ounces at ages 8–10
- 4 ounces at age 11 and up
An additional 200–300 mg of DHA is recommended during pregnancy and nursing. The recommended serving for children depends on their age.
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.
Your body may function best with balanced amounts of omega-6 and omega-3.
For this reason, many organizations encourage people who are planning surgery to stop taking omega-3 supplements 1–2 weeks beforehand.
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.
Taking up to 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.
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 4,000 mg — and no more than 5,000 mg — of combined EPA and DHA per day, unless instructed otherwise by a health professional.