* How much Omega-3 do I need? October 21 2012

 

Based on the facts described below and also taking into account the excess of the Omega-6 acids in the Western diet and generally insufficient fish consumption, our opinion is that healthy adults will benefit from consuming 1000 to 2000 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day*

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The first thing to keep in mind is that to experience health benefits of Omega-3, it should be consumed consistently over a period of time. 8% and above is the level of Omega-3 in the red blood cells membrane that has been linked to improved health and longevity1. The research shows that moving the average American’s Omega-3 level of 4% to the target 8% is time and dose dependent and takes:

Time and Dose to reach the target Omega-3 blood levels and start experiencing the health benefits of Omega-3-

    • 1 g of EPA+DHA a day – 6 months 
    • 2 g of EPA+DHA a day – 3 months 
  • 3 g of EPA+DHA a day – 2 months2 
Therefore, someone who is just starting to take Omega-3 supplements should consider taking a 'loading' dose for the first 2-3 months and then decrease it to approximately 1 g (1000 mg) a day.

Diets naturally high in Omega-3s 

Fish oil and Omega-3s came into the spotlight in the 1970 when the two medical scientists and physicians from Denmark, Dr. Jørn Dyerberg and Dr. Hans Olaf Bang, discovered that the Greenland Inuits, despite consuming a diet high in fats, had a very low incidence of the heart disease. The analysis of the blood samples they collected from Inuits established the cardioprotective effect was due to the polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).3,4, 5  

  • The Greenland Inuits consumed on average 400 grams of seal and fish per day, which translates very approximately into more than 4000 mg (4 g) of Omega-3s daily.

One of the most recent real-life studies of the Omega-3 health impact was published in 2009. The study examined bio-markers of chronic disease in Yup'ik Eskimos of Alaska, blood triglycerides and C-reactive protein, the levels of which rise in response to inflammation. Despite the same obesity rates as in the mainland USA, the Eskimos who consumed a lot of Omega-3s and had a high level of EPA and DHA in their blood, even the overweight ones, had a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes -- 3.3 percent versus 7.7 percent national average. The study concluded that "Increasing EPA and DHA intakes to amounts well above those consumed by the general US population may have strong beneficial effects on chronic disease risk." 6, 7

  • The Alaskan Yup'ik Eskimos consume "on average 20 times more omega-3 fats from fish than people in the lower 48 states", at least 3000 mg (3 g) of Omega-3s daily.

 

Omega-3 recommendations by international health authorities 

Health authorities and professional organization of most developed countries acknowledge importance of the polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet and recommend a certain minimum consumption of those acids from diet, primarily fatty fish and/or from supplements. However, the intake recommendations vary dramatically from country to country. Below are provided several such recommendations: 

  • The level of recommended Omega-3 intake is headed by Japan, whose Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare suggests that healthy adults should take between 2000 and 2900 mg of Omega-3s a day (18-49 years: women 2200 mg, men 2600 mg; 50-69 years: women 2600 mg, men 2900 mg; over 70 years: women 2000 mg, men 2200 mg). 8
  • Health Canada (Health and Welfare Canada at the time the recommendation was published) recommends that the general adult population consumes between 1100 and 1600 mg of Omega-3s daily, including ALA, EPA, and DHA9
  • National Heart Foundation of Australia recommends 500 mg of combined EPA and DHA for the general adult population10
  • In Scandinavian countries, the Nordic Council of Ministries suggests a combination of 450 mg per day of EPA and DHA11
  • Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy in the United Kingdom recommends consuming at least 200 mg of the polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids per day12
  • French Food Safety Agency (AFSSA - L'Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des aliments) recommends combined 500 mg/day for EPA and DHA15
  • In the USA, the recommendations for healthy adults are all around 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day: the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee - two servings of fatty fish per week, equivalent to 496mg EPA and DHA per day12; American Dietetic Association - 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day13; American Heart Association speaks of eating fish twice a week, which could be translated into roughly 500 mg of EPA and DHA a day14 etc.

 

Omega-3 recommendations by international health authorities for the population with the CHD and high triglycerides

Finally, recommendations for the Omega-3 intake for the population with existing coronary heart disease and high blood triglycerides are significantly higher than those for the healthy populations and range between 1000 and 4000 mg of the polyunsaturated fatty acids a day:

  • American Heart Association in the USA16: patients with CHD should consume approximately 1000 mg a day of EPA and DHA preferably from oily fish; patients with high triglycerides should take 2-4 g per day EPA and DHA as capsules under a physician's care
  • National Heart Foundation of Australia10: patients with CHD should consume 1000mg EPA and DHA per day, obtained through fish, fish oil supplements, or enriched foods for prevention of heart disease; Patients with hypertriglyceridemia should take 1200mg of EPA/DHA from fish oil capsules and enriched foods as first-line therapy and raise to 4000mg of EPA and DHA per day, as needed., etc

 

 

Based on the above facts, and also taking into account the excess of the Omega-6 acids in the Western diet and generally insufficient fish consumption, our opinion is that healthy adults will benefit from consuming 1000 to 2000 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day

 

* This article is not intended to substitute medical advice. Please consult your doctor before taking this or any other dietary supplement.

References:

1. Farzaneh-Far R, Lin J, Epel ES, et al. Association of marine omega-3 fatty acid levels with telomeric aging in patients with coronary heart disease. Journal of the American Medical Associations. 2010; 303(3):250-257.

2. Harris WS. The Omega-3 Index: Clinical Utility for Therapeutic Intervention. Current Cardiology Reports. 2010 (Sept). 12:503–508

 

3. Bang HO, Dyerberg J, Sinclair HM. The composition of the Eskimo food in north western Greenland. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1980; 33:2657-1 http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/33/12/2657.long - Accessed on October 21, 2012

4. Dyerberg J. Coronary heart disease in Greenland Inuit: a paradox. Implications for western diet patterns. Arctic Med Res 1989; 48:47–54. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2736000?dopt=Abstract - Accessed on October 21, 2012

6. Dyerberg J, Bang HO, Hjorne N. Fatty acid composition of the plasma lipids in Greenland Eskimos. Am J Clin Nutr 1975; 28:958–66. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1163480 - Accessed on October 21, 2012

6. Makhoul Z, Kristal AR, Gulati R, Luick B, Bersamin A, Boyer B, Mohatt GV. Associations of very high intakes of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids with biomarkers of chronic disease risk among Yup'ik Eskimos. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. January 2010 ajcn.28820  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20089728 - Accessed on October 21, 2012

7. Makhoul Z, Kristal AR, Gulati R, Luick B, Bersamin A, O’Brien D, Hopkins SE, Stephensen CB, Stanhope KL, Havel PJ, Boyer B. Associations of obesity with triglycerides and C-reactive protein are attenuated in adults with high red blood cell  eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. European Journal of Clinican Nutrition July 2011;65(7):808-17. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.39. Epub 2011 Mar 23.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21427737  - Accessed on October 21, 2012

8. Ministry of Health and Welfare, Japan. Recommended dietary allowances for Japanese, 6th edition. Tokyo: Daiichi-Shuppan Co, 1999

9. Health and Welfare Canada (1990) Nutrition Recommendations: The Report of the Scientific Review Committee 1990 Minister of Supply and Services Canada Ottawa, Canada. 

10. National Heart Foundation of Australia. Position statement on Fish, fish oils, n-3 polyunsaturated fattyacids and cardiovascular health. Presented at AIFST conference July 2008.

11. Nutrition recommendations 2004; Integrating nutrition and physical activity. Nord 2004:3. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers; 2004. http://www.norden.org/pub/sk/showpub.asp?pubnr=2004:013 - Accessed on October 21, 2012

12. Department of Health. Nutritional Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease. Report on Health and Social Subjects. No 46. London: HMSO 1994.

13. Opinion of the French Food Safety Agency on the update of French population reference intakes (ANCs) for fatty acids March 1, 2010.http://www.anses.fr/Documents/NUT2006sa0359EN.pdf - Accessed on October 21, 2012

14. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, Part D: Science Base, Section 4: Fats - EPA, DHA and fish. 2005.

15. American Dietetic Association and Dieticians of Canada. Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Dietary Fatty Acids. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2007; 1599-1611.

16. American Heart Association Scientific Statement: Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease, #71-0241 Circulation. 2002;106: 2747-2757. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/21/2747.full - Accessed on October 21, 2012

. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/21/2747.full - Accessed on October 21, 2012