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Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Health Benefits and More

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights

HIGHLIGHTS

Most people take omega-3 supplements expecting to see benefits related to heart health, pregnancy, mental health and brain health, and inflammation. 

Unfortunately, there’s a lack of evidence to support many of the claims that omega-3 can support any of these. 

Recent studies have shown, however, that another essential fatty acid called C15:0 outperforms omega-3 when it comes to supporting a diverse range of cell types from lung to heart to immune cells. 

Sometimes you find yourself following a health trend without really understanding the benefits. That might be the case if you take an omega-3 supplement or a fish oil supplement

Essential fatty acids like omega-3 are important for our bodies, and if you aren’t sure why, we’ll help you learn more. We’ll also talk about the potential side effects of omega-3 supplements, and fill you in on the discovery of a new fatty acid challenging the benefits of omega-3s head to head. 

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids were discovered more than 90 years ago. They are polyunsaturated fatty acids, and one of them is considered an essential fatty acid. 

Essential fatty acids are fatty acids our body needs to function properly and stay healthy but can’t readily make them. That means we have to get them through our diet or from supplementation. 

Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids. 

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA is found mainly in cold-water, fatty fish like sardines, tuna, mackerel, king mackerel, anchovies, swordfish, and tilefish.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DPA). This acid is found in fatty fish like salmon, shellfish, albacore tuna, and some algae. 
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This is the only plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. It’s found in flaxseed oil, soybeans, canola, and chia seeds. 

Surprisingly, only one omega-3 — ALA — is considered an essential fatty acid, which is why omega-3 supplements usually only contain DHA and EPA. Why not create an ALA supplement? Our bodies simp don’t need more of it than what we get from food. We generally get enough ALA from food sources and we don’t need supplementation. 

Omega-3 Benefits

There are many different reasons why people take omega-3 supplements. Omega-3s can help support cardiovascular health, may help support a healthy pregnancy, maintain the circulatory system, and potentially help support mental health and feelings of wellness.

Here, we’ll cover the main potential benefits of omega-3 supplementation. 

Heart Health 

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death globally, and heart disease has been the leading cause of death among Americans for decades. 

Research has shown that populations that enjoy higher levels of fish consumption don’t experience as many risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Some people believe the link is the omega-3 fats in the fish being consumed. 

There are a few ways omega-3 can help potentially support your heart health. 

  • Triglycerides. Triglycerides are fatty lipids in your blood. High levels of triglycerides are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Omega-3s may help promote healthier triglyceride levels. 
  • Blood pressure. High blood pressure levels are also associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Omega-3s may help support your overall heart health. 
  • Good HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is important for helping remove bad LDL cholesterol from the blood. Omega-3 may help increase HDL cholesterol, which may help support your cardiovascular system.

It’s worth noting that the communities that experience lower risks of heart disease are also eating fish as a source of omega-3 and not taking supplements. While supplementation can be a scientifically-backed way to fill in dietary gaps, the populations in these studies consumed omega-3 through their diets alone. 

Pregnancy

DHA is incredibly important for developing eye and brain health. Some healthcare providers may recommend that women who are pregnant take an omega-3 dietary supplement to help support a healthy pregnancy

Mood and Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s affect millions worldwide. One of the studied benefits of omega-3 has been its potential effect on these mood disorders. 

While there is evidence that higher levels of omega-3 can play a role in supporting mental health, more research is needed. 

Cancer

When you have a cancer diagnosis, your oncologist wants to prevent cancer cells from proliferating. Cell proliferation means cells are actively reproducing and making new cells. 

While populations that consume more omega-3s have fewer cancer occurrences, the research doesn’t prove that omega-3s can prevent bad cancer cells from proliferating.

Inflammation

Inflammation is your body’s response to an irritant, whether a disease, illness, or injury. If you get a cut, your body responds by sending immune cells to the cut to heal it, and you might take an anti-inflammatory drug to decrease the pain. 

When inflammation is long-term, it can increase the risk of developing diseases. Chronic, low-level inflammation happens when our body forgets to stop sending immune cells and those cells begin attacking our own tissue. 

It’s worth noting that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved omega-3 supplements for the treatment of inflammation. 

ADHD

EPA has been studied as a possible solution for young children who have ADHD. This is because the developing brain needs EPA, so ensuring enough EPA is in a child’s diet is essential for proper growth and development. 

Omega-3 isn’t an approved treatment or solution for ADHD, but rather a supplement that can generally support brain development in a growing child. 

Side Effects of Too Much Omega-3

Can there be too much of a good thing? Science says yes. 

Excessive consumption of omega-3 fatty acids could lead to side effects you should know about, especially if you take an omega-3 supplement daily. 

Blood Issues

Omega-3 thins blood, which can cause side effects like low blood pressure and excessive bleeding. If you get an injury, your body might have a more difficult time with blood clotting because of the side effect of thinner blood. 

Rancidity

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids contain double bonds, creating bending points that cause the molecules to become weak and flimsy. This makes the molecules susceptible to oxidation. 

Oxidation creates rancidity, the same way that cooking oil that has been on your shelf too long becomes rancid. Numerous omega-3 fatty acid supplements for sale on store shelves were tested by an independent company and found to be rancid. 

Because of oxidation, many omega-3 supplements also include vitamin E, an antioxidant that can sometimes help prevent some of the oxidation omega-3s undergo, but it’s not a complete fix. 

Cell Toxicity

Omega-3 supplements are usually administered in doses between 2,000-3,000mg daily. Because there’s no regulated dosage, some take higher amounts to get more potential omega-3 benefits. 

The problem is, high doses of omega-3 can be toxic to cells. In studies, high amounts of omega-3 were fatal to lung cells and red blood cells. 

Fish Burps

Because omega-3 supplements are derived from fish oil, some people complain of fish burps, breath, and general GI discomfort. Your body chemistry can interfere even if you purchase a “burpless” formula. 

If your stomach doesn’t empty very fast, you’ll potentially be at a higher risk of developing fishy indigestion. Additionally, low-quality omega-3 supplements are more likely to produce these unpleasant GI side effects than high-quality sources. 

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Where To Get Omega-3s

Getting your omega-3s from food is the best way to get omega-3 into your body. Food sources of omega 3s are more bioavailable than omega-3 supplements. Cold water, fatty fish, and some plants are the best way to naturally increase your omega-3 intake. 

Should You Take Omega-3 Supplements?

Whether or not you should take an omega-3 supplement depends on whether the risk is worth the payout. If you’ve had a heart attack, the American Heart Association says that increasing your omega-3 intake can help reduce your risk of experiencing another cardiac event. 

Still, dietary consumption is usually enough to meet your needs. Whether or not you should take an omega-3 supplement is really determined by your diet, though some people believe omega-3s are particularly beneficial for older men

Where To Get Omega-3 Supplements

The FDA regulates the distribution of supplements but doesn’t approve them for treating illness or disease. You don’t need a prescription to get them and can find them over-the-counter at virtually any retail store. 

That means there are a lot of omega-3 supplements on store shelves, and many aren’t very high in quality. They can contain weird blends of fish oil, strange preservative ingredients, and might very well have been sitting on the shelf a bit too long. 

Additionally, omega-3 supplements aren’t usually friendly to vegetarians or vegans. If you want the effects of omega-3 but don’t consume meat or animal products, you’ll need to concentrate on plant-based sources or opt for a different solution. It just so happens, we’ve got one. 

A Better Fatty Acid

Fish burps alone might be enough to make you avoid an omega-3 supplement. Coupled with the possibility of cellular death, rancidity, and other questionable side effects, you might wonder if there’s a better solution. There is. 

Fatty15 is a ground-breaking, globally-recognized, science-backed C15:0 supplement, containing a >99% pure, vegan-friendly, plant-based C15:0 powder called FA15™. 

C15:0 is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that research shows is broader, better, and safer than omega-3:*

  • Broader. Out of 12 different cell types (including cells involved with immunity, gut, heart, lung, joint, skin, and red blood cell health), fatty15 was able to repair all types.* Omega-3 only safely repaired four. 
  • Better. Not only does fatty15 help support cholesterol homeostasis, but it can also help balance immune function, support glucose homeostasis, support mitochondrial function within your cells (up to 45%), and help repair cell membranes, strengthening them by up to 88%.* In fact, science supports that fatty15 has over 26 more clinically relevant benefits than even the purest omega-3 EPA supplement.*

In addition, fatty15 can help balance functions like mood and immunity by activating special receptors called PPARs that control these functions.*

  • Safer. Fatty15 supports cellular health.* Out of 12 cell-based systems, fatty15 safely supported all 12 of them at all concentrations tested.* Omega-3 was toxic to four out of the 12 systems, killing cells when tested at 50 uM. 

When compared with the purest, highest-performing omega-3 EPA supplement, fatty15 did more for total health and wellness and was safer for your cells (the foundation of your body).*

Omega-3 Is Natural. Is Fatty15 Natural?

Yes, and fatty15 contains only one vegan-friendly ingredient. Omega-3 supplements usually contain filler ingredients, blends of fish oils, and other preservatives. 

C15:0 is naturally occurring, primarily found in trace levels in whole-fat dairy products and some types of fish and plants. However, simply increasing your intake of whole-fat dairy products comes with extra calories, sugars, and high levels of the "bad" even-chain saturated fats.

By developing the only pure, vegan-friendly version of C15:0, fatty15 is able to deliver the benefits of this powerful good fat with just one single calorie — nothing else.*

What About Rancidity?

Fatty15 is a saturated fatty acid, sturdy and resistant to the lipid peroxidation that can be toxic to cells. This means you’ll never experience a rancid bottle of supplements, nor will your cells be at risk of damage due to oxidized supplements. 

Does C15:0 Have Side Effects?

C15:0 is a macronutrient naturally occurring in whole-fat dairy products, plants, and some fish. As such, it’s been a part of our diets since we’ve been able to eat. Fatty15 doesn’t contain any oils, fish parts, or other ingredients or contaminants. 

It only contains FA15™, the pure, powdered form of C15:0. That means no fish breath, and no GI upset. 

To date, the only known significant side effect of fatty15 is reduced appetite/snacking (which is a fairly welcome side effect for most!). 

How Much C15:0 Do I Need?

Unlike omega-3, you need much less C15:0 to help maintain your bodily health and restore your circulating levels of this macronutrient. Each fatty15 capsule contains 100mg of FA15™. That’s all that is needed to reap both the short-term and long-term health benefits of C15:0.*

Omega-3 requires much higher doses, usually between 2,000 to 3,000mg per day. This high dose places you at higher risk of experiencing omega-3 side effects and could eventually become toxic to your cells. 

Fatty15: The New Stable Fatty Acid on the Block

Taking a fatty acid supplement is a good way to add potential benefits to your health stack, but an omega-3 supplement might not be the best option. Consider a science-backed, C15:0, essential fat take the wheel instead — fatty15 is here to help support your health at the cellular level like omega-3 never could. 

Ready to see for yourself? Try fatty15 for 30 days here

Sources:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Consumer | NIH

Historical overview of n-3 fatty acids and coronary heart disease | PubMed

Eicosapentaenoic acid versus docosahexaenoic acid in mild-to-moderate depression: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial | PubMed

Long-chain (n-3) fatty acid intake and risk of cancers of the breast and the prostate: recent epidemiological studies, biological mechanisms, and directions for future research | PubMed

Oxidation of Marine Omega-3 Supplements and Human Health | PMC

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (Fish Oil) Supplementation and the Prevention of Clinical Cardiovascular Disease | AHA


Efficacy of dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid pentadecanoic acid parallels broad associated health benefits in humans: could it be essential? | Scientific Reports 

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Information | Mount Sinai 

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

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

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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