10 Reasons You Should Take an Omega-3 Supplement
1. You probably aren’t getting an optimal amount
Our bodies are designed to consume a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats that is about 1:1-1.5, but today, we are consuming about a 1:20 ratio, which puts our body in an inflammatory state. In fact, from 1909 to 1999, the availability of omega-3s in American diets decreased substantially. (1) In addition to reducing our intake of omega-6 fats, it is important to supplement with omega-3s to help balance out this ratio and decrease inflammation. One of the best sources of omega-3 fats is fatty fish like salmon. If you aren’t a frequent fish consumer (we recommend incorporating it a couple of times per week at least), it is likely you’re getting little to no omega-3 fats from food alone.
2. Fight inflammation
Omega-3 intake has been shown to decrease inflammation in several populations.
- In medical students, supplementing with 2.5g per day (EPA/DHA) for 12 weeks saw a 14% decrease in inflammatory marker IL-6, and 20% lower anxiety symptoms! (2)
- In adults aged 50+, supplementing with omega-3s (especially in those with low fish intake) decreased C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, by 10% in just one year. (3)
3. Help decrease blood pressure
Omega-3 fats, because of their anti-inflammatory properties, have been shown to decrease blood pressure.
- After 12 weeks, patients who supplemented with omega-3 fats saw significant decreases in total and LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterols”), and higher levels of “good cholesterol” or HDL. (4)
- In hypertensive patients, supplementing with 1800 mg/day of omega-3s was shown to improve arterial stiffness and endothelial function! (5)
4. Improve memory/cognitive function
Omega-3 supplements are often thought of as brain-related supplements. It turns out there is a reason for this common reaction to the word omega-3. Several studies document the potential for omega-3 supplementation to aid in memory and cognition.
- In healthy older adults (ages 50 to 75), a 2200 mg/day supplementation of omega-3s for 26 weeks increased memory capacity as measured by recall of object locations. (6)
- In 10 out of 14 studies looking at omega-3 supplementation and cognition (as shown in a 2019 systematic review), groups who were supplemented showed improvement in at least one (or more) parameters of cognitive function (working memory, executive function, verbal memory, short-term memory, perceptual speed, etc.). (7)
5. Improve premenstrual symptoms
We all know the feeling—aches, pains, mood swings, and cravings galore. What if you could prevent or reduce these symptoms just by increasing your omega-3 intake? It turns out, studies show this may be the case.
- In Iranian women, supplementing with just 1 g of fish oil per day saw significant improvements in mental and physical quality of life, as well as improvement in premenstrual symptoms! (8)
6. Decrease anxiety symptoms
One of the fascinating things about nutrition is its many links to mental health. One of these links is with omega-3 fat intake and anxiety symptoms!
- In medical students (a perpetually stressed/anxious population), supplementing with 2.5 g per day (EPA/DHA) for 12 weeks decreased anxiety symptoms by 20%! (See reference 2.)
- A systematic review looking at clinical anxiety and omega-3 supplementation found that supplementation with at least 2 g/day of omega-3s significantly reduced anxiety symptoms! (9)
7. Decrease risk of heart disease mortality
Omega-3 fats are widely recognized as heart healthy, and there’s a reason for this! Omega-3 fats are not only essential, but they are anti-inflammatory.
- Omega-3 index (ratio of omega-3 intake to omega-6 intake) is inversely associated with cardiovascular disease mortality. (10)
- In a UK cohort of 22,035 people, omega-3 supplement use was associated with decreased risk of heart disease mortality over a median follow up of 19 years. (11)
8. Improvement in insulin sensitivity
Good blood sugar control is essential for good health. As it turns out, your omega-3 intake may be in play with this as well!
- In women with polycystic ovary syndrome (a characteristic of which is insulin resistance), 12 weeks of supplementation with 1 g of omega-3s increased insulin sensitivity and decreased insulin resistance! (12)
9. Migraine prevention
Several different nutrients have been associated with migraine prevention, highlighting the importance of good nutrition. A migraine can ruin an entire day! Here are some studies looking at omega-3s and migraines specifically:
- Chronic migraine patients saw an 80% reduction in number of days with headaches per month after supplementing with omega-3s daily in addition to their migraine medication (50% greater benefit than those without omega-3s added). (13)
- Supplementing with omega-3 and curcumin together was shown to decrease inflammatory markers associated with migraine, showing potential for migraine prevention and treatment. (14)
10. Strengthen bone
Osteoporosis is largely an inflammatory disorder and omega-3 fats help protect bone with their robust anti-inflammatory activity.
- Both animal and human studies report positive effects of omega-3 fats on bone formation and strength. (15)
- A large Spanish study found higher intake of omega-3 fats associated with greater bone density in women with osteopenia or normal bone density. (16)
- The omega-3 fat DHA inhibits the proliferation and activity of the bone breakdown osteoclast cells. (17)
- While improving bone strength, omega-3 fats have also been shown to help prevent soft tissue pathological calcification. (18)
The benefits from omega-3 fats are dose dependent. A daily intake of 3000 mg of EPA and DHA (totaled together) is our suggested highly effective dose.
- Blasbalg, T. L., et al. 2011. Changes in consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the United States during the 20th century. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 93(5):950-962.
- Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., et al. 2011. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 25(8):1725-1734.
- Costenbader, K. H., et al. 2019. Effects of one year of vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on biomarkers of systemic inflammation in older US adults. Clinical Chemistry 65(12):1508-1521.
- Shen, T., et al. 2017. Effects of 12-week supplementation of marine omega-3 PUFA-based formulation Omega3Q10 in older adults with prehypertension and/or elevated blood cholesterol. Lipids in Health and Disease 16(1):253.
- Casanova, M. A., et al. 2017. Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation improves endothelial function and arterial stiffness in hypertensive patients with hypertriglyceridemia and high cardiovascular risk. Journal of the American Society of Hypertension 11(1):10-19.
- Külzow, N., et al. 2016. Impact of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on memory functions in healthy older adults. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 51(3):713-725.
- Martí Del Moral, A., and F. Fortique. 2019. Omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive decline: A systematic review. Nutricion Hospitalaria 36(4):939-949.
- Behboudi-Gandevani, S., et al. 2018. The effect of omega 3 fatty acid supplementation on premenstrual syndrome and health-related quality of life: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology 39(4):266-272.
- Su, K. P., et al. 2018. Association of use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with changes in severity of anxiety symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Network Open 1(5):e182327.
- Harris, W. S., and C. Von Schacky. 2004. The omega-3 index: A new risk factor for death from coronary heart disease? Preventive Medicine 39(1):212-220.
- Lentjes, M. A. H., et al. 2017. Longitudinal associations between marine omega-3 supplement users and coronary heart disease in a UK population-based cohort. BMJ Open 7(10):e017471.
- Mirmasoumi, G., et al. 2018. The effects of flaxseed oil omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on metabolic status of patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes 126(4):222-228.
- De Almeida Soares, A., et al. 2018. A double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled clinical trial with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (OPFA ω-3) for the prevention of migraine in chronic migraine patients using amitriptyline. Nutritional Neuroscience 21(3):219-223.
- Abdolahi, M., et al. 2018. A novel combination of ω-3 fatty acids and nano-curcumin modulates interleukin-6 gene expression and high sensitivity C-reactive protein serum levels in patients with migraine: A randomized clinical trial study. CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets 17(6):430-438.
- Maggio, M., et al. 2009. The impact of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoporosis. Current Pharmaceutical Design 15(36):4157-4164.
- Lavado-García, J., et al. 2018. Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid dietary intake is positively associated with bone mineral density in normal and osteopenic Spanish women. PLoS One 13(1):e0190539.
- Kim, H. J., et al. 2017. Docosahexaenoic acid signaling attenuates the proliferation and differentiation of bone marrow-derived osteoclast precursors and promotes apoptosis in mature osteoclasts. Cell Signal 29:226-232.
- Sharma, T., and C. C. Mandal. 2020. Omega-3 fatty acids in pathological calcification and bone health. Journal of Food Biochemistry 44(8):e13333.