Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat that the body derives from food. Omega-3s (and omega-6s) are known as essential fatty acids (EFAs) because the body cannot make these fatty acids on its own so omega-3s must be obtained from food. These different types of fatty acids can be obtained in foods such as cold-water fish including tuna, salmon, and mackerel. Other important omega 3 fatty acids are found in dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oils, walnuts, chia seeds, and certain vegetable oils.
Omega-3s are also available as dietary supplements; for example, fish oil supplements contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and flaxseed oil supplements contain ALA. The highest concentrate, 2500mg triple strength, molecularly distilled Omega 3 softgels delivers around 1800mg essential fatty acids in every serving.
Since the late 1970s, hundreds of studies have supported a link between omega-3 fatty acids in the diet and a lower rate of heart attacks and related problems. The best-known omega-3s found mainly in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). But a less-familiar form of these unique fats, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), occurs only in plants.
Is Triple Strength Fish Oil Good For You?
Results of studies on diets rich in seafood (fish and shellfish) and heart disease provide moderate evidence that people who eat seafood at least once a week are less likely to die of heart disease than those who rarely or never eat seafood. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 (3MB PDF) includes a new recommendation that adults eat 8 or more ounces of a variety of seafood per week because it provides a range of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. (Smaller amounts are recommended for young children, and there are special recommendations for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Evidence suggests that seafood rich in EPA and DHA should be included in a heart-healthy diet; however, supplements of EPA and DHA have not been shown to protect against heart disease. In 2012, two groups of scientists analyzed the research on the effects of EPA/DHA supplements on heart disease risk. One group analyzed only studies in people with a history of heart disease, and the other group analyzed studies in people both with and without a history of heart disease. Neither review found strong evidence of a protective effect of the supplements.
A 2012 review of the scientific literature concluded that EPA and DHA, the types of omega-3s found in seafood and fish oil, may be modestly helpful in relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In the studies included in the review, many of the participants reported that when they were taking fish oil they had briefer morning stiffness, less joint swelling and pain, and less need for anti-inflammatory drugs to control their symptoms.
The nutritional value of seafood is of particular importance during fetal growth and development, as well as in early infancy and childhood. Women who are pregnant or breastfeed should consume 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week from a variety of seafood types that are low in methyl mercury as part of a healthy eating pattern and while staying within their calorie needs. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should limit the amount of white tuna (labeled as “albacore”) to no more than 6 ounces per week. They should not eat tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel because they are high in methyl mercury.
There is ongoing research on omega-3 fatty acids and diseases of the brain and eye, but there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of omega-3s for these conditions. DHA plays important roles in the functioning of the brain and the eye. Researchers are actively investigating the possible benefits of DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids in preventing or treating a variety of brain- and eye-related conditions.
There is conflicting evidence about whether a link might exist between the omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood and fish oil (EPA/DHA) and an increased risk of prostate cancer. Additional research on the association of omega-3 consumption and prostate cancer risk is under way.
Including seafood in your diet is healthful. Whether omega-3 supplements are beneficial is uncertain. If you are considering omega-3 supplements, talk to your health care provider. It’s especially important to consult your (or your child’s) health care provider if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, if you take medicine that affects blood clotting, if you are allergic to seafood, or if you are considering giving a child an omega-3 supplement.
This table lists common fish and seafood products and their omega-3 fatty acid content.
|Type of Seafood||Serving Size||Omega-3 Fatty Acids
|Catfish (farmed)||5.0 oz||253|
|Cod (Atlantic)||6.3 oz||284|
|Fish sticks (frozen)||3.2 oz||193|
|Mahi mahi||5.6 oz||221|
|Pollock (Alaskan)||2.1 oz||281|
|Salmon (wild)||6.0 oz||1,774|
|Salmon (farmed)||6.0 oz||4,504|
|Tuna (albacore)**||3.0 oz||733|
|Tuna (light, skipjack)||3.0 oz||228|
SOURCE: Mozaffarian D, Rimm EB. JAMA. 2006;296:1885-1899.