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How much omega-3 do we need per day?

It's known that Omega-3s fatty acids have many health benefits for our body and the best way to get enough omega-3s is by eating omega-3s rich foods like fatty fish at least two servings per week, and if we don't eat these foods, we should consider taking omega-3s supplements.

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

  1. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), acts as anti-inflammatory
  2. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), has high levels in the eye (retina), brain, and sperm cells.
  3. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the body converts it into EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate isn't enough.

Omega-3 fatty acids needs vary depending on age, sex, and health conditions.

This article discusses how much omega-3s we need for good health.

Omega-3 dosage guidelines

Overall, it's recommended that you should take a minimum of 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA each day for healthy adults, and sometimes higher amounts are recommended for certain health conditions.

For alpha-linolenic acid (RDA), it's recommended to take 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 grams per day for women.

Omega-3s for particular cases

Omega-3s for heart diseases

For people with coronary heart disease, it's recommended that they should take 1000 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily, while those with high triglycerides should take 2000–4000 mg daily.

Omega-3s for depression and anxiety

Studies recommend high doses of omega-3, ranging from 200 to 2200 mg per day, which can reduce depression and anxiety symptoms and also in mood and mental disorders cases, a supplement with higher EPA amounts than DHA may be better.

Omega-3s for cancer

There is a relation between low risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers and high omega 3s intake, but more studies are needed.

Omega-3s for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive function

Some, but not all, observational studies observe that a high omega-3s diet reduces the risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia because:

  • DHA is an essential component of cellular membrane phospholipids in the brain, so omega-3s may protect cell membrane integrity within the brain
  • Alzheimer’s disease patients have lower DHA than healthy people.
  • Lower serum DHA levels are also associated with more cerebral amyloidosis (build-up of protein deposits called amyloids) in healthy older adults. In contrast, higher DHA is associated with brain volume preservation.

Omega-3 for children and pregnant women

Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are very important before, during, and after pregnancy, so most guidelines recommend at least 200 mg of DHA during pregnancy and breastfeeding plus a regular dosage.

Also, 1.4 g of ALA while pregnant and 1.3 g of ALA while lactating are recommended.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women can achieve these recommendations by eating foods that are higher in EPA and DHA and lower in mercury, such as salmon, herring, sardines, and trout every week two times or by taking omega-3 fatty acids supplements.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn't eat certain types of fish, such as king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish that are high in mercury, and they should reduce eating white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces (170 grams) a week.

For infants and children, 50–100 mg per day of combined EPA and DHA are recommended,  and consider that human milk contains ALA, DHA, and EPA for breastfed infants.

Omega-6 intake may affect your omega-3 needs

Many health experts think that the optimal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is closer to 2:1.

Omega-6s and omega-3s use the same enzymes, which convert the fatty acids into their biologically active forms.

Therefore, if you want to increase your omega-3 level, you should also reduce your intake of vegetable oils high in omega-6.

Too much omega-3 can be harmful

Health authorities claim that omega-3 supplements containing EPA and DHA are safe if doses don’t exceed 3000 mg - 5000 mg daily.

Many organizations advise people who are planning surgery to stop taking omega-3 supplements 1–2 weeks before surgery as omega-3s can cause blood thinning or excessive bleeding in some people.

Some omega-3 supplements, such as cod liver oil, are high in vitamin A, and this vitamin is toxic in high doses.

Overall, taking more than 5000 mg of omega-3s has never been shown to provide any extra benefits, so no need for the risk.

Omega-3 supplements doses

It’s important to read the label of your omega-3 supplement to know how much EPA and DHA it contains.

These amounts vary according to brands, and the labels can be misleading. For example, a product may write that it provides 1,000 mg of fish oil, but its levels of these two fatty acids could be much lower.

Depending on EPA and DHA concentration in a dose, you may need to take as many as eight capsules to reach the recommended amount.

Omega 3s supplements' interaction with Medications

Warfarin (Coumadin®) and similar anticoagulants

Fish oil has some anti-platelet effects at high doses (less potent than aspirin). Fish oil might prolong clotting times when it is taken with warfarin, but most studies indicate that doses of 3–6 grams/day of fish oil don't significantly affect the anticoagulant status of patients taking warfarin.


The recommended intake of alpha-linolenic acid is 1.6 grams per day for men and 1 gram per day for women.

Health organizations generally recommend a minimum of 250 mg and a maximum of 3000 mg to 5000 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day, unless instructed otherwise by a health care professional.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

How Much Omega-3 Should You Take per Day
How much omega-3 should you get each day

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