Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Striking a Healthy Balance

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Striking a Healthy Balance on

While omega-3 fatty acids are revered for their health benefits, consumption in high doses can be dangerous. If you want to stay healthy, moderation is key.

Key article takeaways:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for a healthy, functioning body
  • Main types of omega-3s are EPA, DHA, and ALA
  • Multitude of health and wellness benefits associated with omega-3s
  • Recommended dosage of omega-3s is 250-500 mg per day
  • Negative side effects are associated with taking too much omega-3
  • Do not exceed more than 5,000 mg of omega-3s per day
  • Try to strike a healthy balance when taking omega-3s

It’s no secret that fish oil offers an array of health benefits, but if you’re like most of us and find it difficult to fit the recommended amount of fatty fish into your diet (like salmon, halibut, and sardines), then taking something like a fish oil supplement is your best bet.

Here’s the thing, though: Most people focus on the dosage of fish oil to take (like 1000 mg or 1200 mg), but the health benefits are found within the fish oil’s omega-3 fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA.

Omega-3s are key for cardiovascular health and normal development, but the human body doesn’t make these “good fats” naturally. That means we have to get them from our diet.

Does this mean you should consume all of the omega-3s that you can get your hands on? No, don’t do that. There is a fine line between taking too little, taking just the right amount, and taking too much.

Here is the rundown on omega-3s:

Why take omega-3 fatty acids?

While it may sound counterintuitive, omega-3 fatty acids are fats that you actually want as a mainstay in your diet. Not only are they necessary for regular body function, but they deliver some killer health benefits as well.

There are three main types of omega-3s. EPA and DHA are found in fatty cold-water fish, and ALA is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds. As a matter of fact, ALA needs to be converted into EPA or DHA before the human body can use it.

These essential fatty acids play important roles in our overall health and wellness, and they are known to:

  • Fight depression and anxiety
  • Improve eye and brain health in adults, during pregnancy, and in early life
  • Reduce risk factors that lead to heart disease
  • Fight inflammation and combat autoimmune disease
  • Promote sleep
  • Prevent certain cancers
  • Improve bone and joint health
  • Reduce fat in your liver

How much omega-3 should you take?

While there is no official standard for the amount of omega-3s we should get each day, reputable health organizations suggest a minimum daily amount of 250-500 mg combined EPA and DHA for healthy adults.

On the other hand, a deficiency in omega 3s is linked to lower intelligence, depression, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and other health problems.

Can you take too much omega-3?

While omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly known for their health benefits, consumption in high doses can actually be detrimental to your health. Sure, it may be tempting to double up on doses to achieve the desired health perks, but it’s important to remember that, in this case, more does not mean better.

Here are just a few of the side effects associated with taking too much fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids:

  1. Increased bleeding. Excess amounts of fish oil can impede your body’s ability to form blood clots, which increases the risk of excess bleeding, specifically from your gums and nose.
  2. Low blood pressure. While omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for those with high blood pressure, it can be dangerous for those with already low blood pressure. It may also interfere with other blood pressure medications.
  3. Acid reflux. Due to its high-fat content, fish oil has been known to induce indigestion and reflux symptoms such as stomach upset, nausea, and heartburn.
  4. Stroke. Since omega-3s can decrease your body’s ability to naturally clot, some studies indicate that high levels of these fatty acids may increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
  5. Insomnia. While omega-3 fatty acids are commonly used to improve sleep patterns, in excess, they can actually disrupt sleep patterns and cause insomnia.
  6. Vitamin A toxicity. Some omega-3 fatty acid supplements are very high in vitamin A, which can be toxic in high dosages. Vitamin A toxicity can present itself in the form of dizziness, nausea, joint pain, skin irritation, and in severe cases, liver failure.

So, how much is too much? It depends on the underlying reasons for taking omega-3 fatty acids. Higher amounts are generally recommended for people with certain health conditions, like heart disease, but as a basic rule of thumb, do not exceed more than 5,000 mg per day.

If you do begin to experience undesirable side effects, try reducing your intake and reassess how you feel from there.

Just remember, omega-3s are an essential component to our overall health and well-being, but the only way to reap the benefits is to incorporate them into our diets, either through food sources or supplements. If you stick to the recommended dose and avoid taking too much, your mind and body will thank you.

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