How Many mg of Omega 3 Are Needed Per Day?
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
- Omega-3 fatty acids are a necessary component of our diets, and the amount that you need per day can vary based on gender and age.
- While you can usually get the omega-3 you need from the foods you eat, it is possible to have too much omega-3, which can lead to serious side effects.
- Other fatty acids, like C15:0, which you can get through fatty15, also have many benefits like supporting cellular function, and are much harder to get through food.
For years we’ve been concerned with getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in our diets.
Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with improved heart health and a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, omega-3 wasn’t always the unsung hero of heart health that it is today.
When dietary guidelines for Americans were issued during 1977, avoidance of dietary fats was hailed as an important way to stop heart disease, an epidemic that had become the number one cause of death for adults. Around the same time that we were imposing restrictions on fat, however, researchers in Greenland were studying groups of Inuit Eskimos whose diets were extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids and did not have heart disease. This led them to publish a paper suggesting that some fats were not only okay for us, they were good for our health.
Research picked up speed in the mid-1980’s, with numerous papers being published in prestigious medical journals suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids helped improve cardiovascular health. More and more evidence through the late 80’s and 90’s came pouring in, and thus, omega-3 fatty acids earned their place in our diets and daily supplement regimen.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you should consume more omega-3s than you need. In fact, consuming too much omega-3s could be detrimental to your health. Additionally, coronary heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans, even though the popularity of omega-3 supplements has skyrocketed.
It’s important to know how much omega-3s to consume, and how you should be getting it (i.e. from a supplement or from your food). We’ll explain how much you need, the side effects of taking higher amounts of omega-3, and give you a different option for supporting your health that doesn’t involve fish oil supplements.
How Many Grams of Omega-3 Do I Need Per Day?
You may be surprised to learn that the amount of omega-3 fatty acids you need in your diet each day is actually pretty low.
Birth to 6 months
7 to 12 months
1 to 3 years
4 to 8 years
9 to 13 years
14 to 18 years
19 to 50 years
Another fun fact? There are actually three core types of dietaryomega-3 fatty acids, and only one of them is considered “essential.”
The three primary forms of omega-3 fatty acids are ALA, EPA, and DHA. Your body cannot make ALA on its own, which makes it essential. The body can convert ALA into EPA, and then DHA through a process that occurs in the liver, but this conversion process is fairly limited, so obtaining EPA and DHA through foods and supplements is typically a good option.
- EPA. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has been demonstrated to support healthy heart function.
- DHA. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can support brain health and cognitive function.
- ALA. Mostly used by the body as a source of energy, the body can also use alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and convert it to EPA, which can then be converted into DHA.
This is particularly interesting because in most omega-3 studies, only large mg of EPA (without the presence of DHA) have shown supportive health benefits. Yet most types of omega-3 supplements contain both EPA and DHA omega-3. When a larger amount of EPA omega-3 is taken, we begin to also see some detrimental health effects.
How Should I Get Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
You can usually get all the omega-3 fatty acids you need simply by eating a balanced diet that includes a daily serving of a food containing this fatty acid.
The foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Flaxseed oil
- Chia seeds
- English walnuts
- Whole flaxseeds
- Atlantic salmon
- Canola oil
- Some shellfish like mussels and oysters
These sources all contain between 1 and 7.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per serving. As such, it can be extremely easy to get your daily recommended allowance of omega-3s simply by adding a serving of these foods to your plate. There are additional sources of omega-3 fatty acids like canned fish, soybean oil, mayonnaise, black walnuts, trout and herring, beans, eggs, and even whole milk, although these sources contain much less of omega-3 overall.
Not convinced you’re going to get enough omega-3 from your dietary choices? You can always opt for a fish oil supplement. Fish oil is typically harvested from fish like cod and krill. Sometimes the fish oil is mixed together, so your cod liver oil supplement may actually contain krill oil, and vice versa.
Fish oil supplements contain your daily dosage of omega-3 fatty acids, however, it comes with a pretty unpleasant fishy aftertaste. Even “burpless” formulas still leave users with a bad fish taste, and sometimes unpleasant gastrointestinal issues like indigestion.
There’s another unfortunate caveat with omega-3 supplements that contain fish oil. Because omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, it’s subject to peroxidation. That means it can spoil just like cooking oil that has been in your pantry for too long.
The process of taking fish oil from the fish to the capsule in your bottle is extensive and takes a longer period of time than other supplements. Most fish oil is harvested from fish in Peru and then sent to China for distillation before returning to North America for processing, packaging, and manufacturing. During the entire process, the fish oil needs to be kept at certain temperatures to avoid rancidity, and that doesn’t always happen.
Independent researchers tested bottles of unsold fish oil supplements and found that more than one in 10 of them contained rancid dietary supplements. If the fish oil is bad in the bottle, it is also bad in your body.
You probably won’t know the supplements are bad. The only indication is a foul, fishy odor, which is often masked by the flavorings and scent tabs used by many fish oil supplements.
Preliminary studies have shown that the effects of omega-3fish oil supplements that are rancid may have a negative impact on cholesterol levels. This is concerning since taking a daily dose of omega-3 is intended to help support healthy cholesterol numbers.
That information may make it more convincing to get your intake of omega-3 from food sources, but if you’re on a restricted diet (like vegan or vegetarian), you might find it harder without the presence of fatty fish.
Thankfully, it’s unlikely for most Americans that you’ll have an omega-3 deficiency, even if you are on a restricted diet. That’s mostly due to the fact that the recommended amount of omega-3 fats is so low.
What Happens If I Get Too Much Omega-3?
Getting too much omega-3 in your diet would probably be pretty difficult, but if you’re taking a fish oil supplement, you could potentially get too much omega-3. Side effects are usually related to gastrointestinal distress like bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.
However, there could be some long-term side effects, including:
- Increased blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Omega-3s stimulate the production of glucose, so patients with type 2 diabetes could be at risk of an unhealthy increase in blood sugar levels if supplementing with fish oil. Further, some studies have shown that DHA can increase your LDL-cholesterol levels.
- Bleeding. Taking too much fish oil could cause you to have nosebleeds and bleeding gums.
- Low blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, this is good news, but individuals who already have low blood pressure may not want to take a fish oil supplement. Speak to your healthcare professional about whether fish oil is a good fit for you.
Are There Other Fatty Acids That Can Provide Health Benefits Like Omega-3s?
The essentiality of the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, was first discovered 90 years ago by a husband and wife scientist team, George and Mildred Burr.
Incidentally, C15:0 (also called pentadecanoic acid), a trace fatty acid present in butter and whole fat milk, has increasing scientific support that it is an essential fatty acid and was also discovered by a husband and wife team.
C15:0 may seem surprising as a healthy nutrient because it is a trace saturated fat. For decades, we’ve considered dietary fats as unhealthy (especially saturated fats), so to consider a saturated fat as “healthy” seems controversial to say the least.
As it turns out, not all saturated fats are bad -- it depends on the type of saturated fat you consume. C15:0, for instance, is an odd-chain saturated fat.
Having this odd-chain saturated fat in your diet has been linked to positive health markers like:*†
- Balanced immunity
- Red blood cell health
- Healthy metabolism
- Liver health
C15:0 supports healthy cellular function -- it integrates into your cells to help give your body the support it needs on its most basic level, and actually reverses cellular aging by:.*†
Keeping cell membranes strong. Unlike omega-3, C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into cell membranes to keep them strong and protect them against the natural breakdown they experience during aging. Studies support that C15:0 helps strengthen cells by 80%.
Activating AMPK. AMPK is an important molecule in our bodies. It helps clear damaged cells and also regulates processes like glucose uptake and immune response. By activating AMPK, C15:0 helps restore homeostasis to these functions and ensures damaged cells are cleared.
Regulating inflammatory response. An unhealthy immune response can underlie chronic illness. C15:0 significantly calms and lowers levels of proinflammatory cytokines, molecules that are associated with aging.
Improving mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are the batteries inside our cells. When we get older, they begin to slow down. C15:0 repairs mitochondrial function, increasing our cells’ ability to function and decreasing reactive oxygen species by 45%. C15:0 also has a significant impact on ATP production. ATP is the energy molecule your cells need to generate power. In one study, C15:0 increased ATP levels in the cells by 350%.
Activating PPARɑ and PPARẟ receptors. These receptors are involved with processes like immunity, metabolic health, heart and liver function, and even mood and sleep. By activating these receptors, C15:0 helps support them and bring them back into balance.
Unlike even-chain saturated fats (like C16:0), which are associated with increased inflammation, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, C15:0 can help protect and fortify your cells, supporting them so they have a fighting chance, especially with the stressors of aging.*†
How Does C15:0 Compare to Omega-3?
When compared with omega-3, C15:0 was found to be better, broader, and safer than the purest, highest performing form of omega-3 (EPA).
- Better. C15:0 has 26+ clinically relevant benefits than omega-3. The benefits include stopping “bad” cells from proliferating, and helping restore and balance immunity.
- Broader. Out of 12 cell types studied, C15:0 was able to repair 10 of them. Omega-3 only repaired 4 of them safely. C15:0 repaired cells involved with the immune system, gut, heart, joints, skin, and lungs.
- Safer. C15:0 was found to be safe for all 12 cell types observed in this study. Omega-3 was found to be toxic to 33% of them at higher doses, including lung and blood vessel cells.
The benefits of omega-3 might not outweigh the risks for healthy adults. Science supports that C15:0 is a better essential fatty acid than omega-3s...
Getting C15:0 Into Your Diet
If you want to get enough C15:0 in your diet, you might find it a bit difficult. C15:0 is found primarily in whole dairy products like whole fat milk, butter, and cheese. The problem with attempting to get C15:0 in a whole fat dairy product, however, is that you’d also be consuming much higher levels of even-chain saturated fatty acids.
Fatty15 is the first and only pure powder supplement that has a full day’s serving of C15:0, and nothing else. No even-chain saturated fats, no fillers, and no animal or dairy byproducts -- just pure FA15™ (the pure powder form of C15:0). Fatty15 is the only way to get C15:0 in its purest form.
Compared to 3 to 4 grams of oily omega-3 fatty acid supplements, people only need to take one, small (aka easy to swallow) 100 milligram fatty15 pure powder-filled capsule per day. The best part? Zero fishy aftertaste or chance of oxidation in your medicine cabinet. In fact, the only known side effect of taking fatty15 is decreased snacking between meals, something both you and your dietitian can probably agree is more beneficial than detrimental, especially if you’re on a weight loss journey.
Pregnant women and breastfeeding moms can also take fatty15 safely.
We all want to live as long as possible and age as healthfully as possible. To do so, we take care of ourselves by eating a balanced diet and getting enough exercise, and we are selective about the supplements we take, such as doing our best to incorporate essential fatty acids like omega-3s.
Adding fatty15 to your health stack is a great way to ensure you get the essential C15:0 fatty acid you need to take care of your body at a cellular level, enabling you to stay healthier longer and age on your own terms. In addition to a healthy diet, a balanced exercise program, and avoiding certain lifestyle habits (like smoking), it’s one of the best things you can do to support your overall health and wellness.*†
Broader and safer clinically-relevant activities of pentadecanoic acid compared to omega-3: Evaluation of an emerging essential fatty acid across twelve primary human cell-based disease systems | PLOS ONE
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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