How much Omega-3 do I need to take daily?
This is an important question. Are you getting enough of the most important omega-3s in your diet? Omega-3s are the healthy fats in salmon, tuna, sardines and other cold-water fish. If you are a health minded person, you want to be sure you are getting an optimal amount of the marine omega-3s EPA and DHA on a daily basis. The omega-3s have been shown in numerous studies to promote heart, brain, eye and overall health. The substantial evidence that defines the benefits of these fats continues to grow with more than 40,000 papers published and more studies getting underway every year.
So, how can you be certain you are getting enough EPA and DHA Omega-3?
Don’t leave it to chance, measure your level. You can now get a painless finger-stick test, as easy as checking your blood sugar, and know exactly where you stand. The test is called the Omega-3 Index, and it may be just as important as knowing your cholesterol, blood sugar and vitamin D levels. The Omega-3 Index is a safe, simple, self-administered blood test that measures the amount of EPA and DHA in your diet.
The best news is you don’t even have to see your doctor, the test is done at home. Once you mail it in, the results will arrive in about two weeks. If your index is 8% or greater, you're in great shape. If your index is under 4%, which is typical of most Americans, moving up to an index closer to 8% is recommended. increasing your levels takes time and consistent intake. It takes about 16 weeks to move your levels higher. Most adults will need 2000 mg of EPA/DHA daily to reach target levels. If you are vegan there are algal sourced DHA supplements available.
Why are American levels so low?
The typical diet for most individuals, up to 80-90% in some countries, does not provide enough EPA and DHA to provide these benefits, leaving a majority of the population deficient – with most countries and regions around the globe having Omega-3 Index levels that are considered low to very low. The average intake of EPA/DHA in the US is 100-115 mg daily.
In spite of that many people believe they are getting enough omega-3s in their diet. Testing has shown us that even the majority of those who feel they eat a lot of fish and/or consistently take a supplement still may not be reaching the desirable Omega-3 Index target of 8%. The only way to actually know your omega-3 status is through testing blood levels. Once you know your level you will know if you need to increase your intake to enjoy the many benefits of optimal omega-3 status.
What are the benefits of getting enough omega-3s?
We will start with the heart. An Omega-3 Index of over 8% is associated with the lowest risk of death from heart disease and below 4% with the highest. Omega-3s support heart health. Powerfully. EPA and DHA are a tool for making your heart stronger and are useful in the management of healthy triglyceride levels, healthy blood pressure and promoting healthy blood vessels. Having an optimal intake of EPA and DHA supports better levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) and increases the elasticity of arteries. EPA and DHA also help you avoid plaque and unhealthy blood clots. They balance inflammation which is implicated in heart disease and almost every other chronic condition you could think of. The bottom line is having a low omega-3 intake, or a low Omega-3 Index measurement is linked to higher heart risk and having an optimal Omega-3 Index is linked with a significant reduction in that risk. But the benefits don’t stop with heart health. What is good for the heart is also good for the brain and the omega-3s are a superfood for the brain.
DHA omega-3 is literally a building block of brain cells. The omega-3s play a starring role in supporting brain health in every stage of life from infancy to your golden years. With optimal intake daily, your thoughts are sharper and more focused. Your memory is clear. Your mood is bright, and your emotions are calm and peaceful. Studies have linked low omega-3 index scores to higher risk of learning deficits, depression, and unhealthy brain aging. One study among heart patients found a strong link between higher blood levels of omega-3s and reduction in depression symptoms and improvement in social function.
Seniors who were given 900 mg or more of DHA daily consistently saw improvement in cognition and lower rates of dementia. Dose definitely matters in protecting cognition. There is a direct relationship between the levels of omega-3 supplementation and cognitive function; high doses (900 to 2500 mg) of DHA/EPA daily improved cognitive function in the elderly; low doses (300-700 mg) of DHA/EPA seemed not to be enough to affect cognition.
DHA supports your vision too. The retinal tissues are one of the areas where the body stores DHA and when it is present that translates to sharper eyesight.
Brand new research shows that having a higher Omega-3 Index has a profound impact on asthma control and medication use.
The omega-3s even support healthy aging and increased longevity. Don’t leave it to chance. After a decade of testing omega-3 blood levels the research shows that to maintain a target Omega-3 Index level of 8-12% most adults need to consume on average, 2000mg of EPA and DHA daily. It is hard to eat that much fish so a high-quality supplement may be your best option. Fortunately, Carlson offers several pure and taste award winning fish oil supplements making it easy to get your daily dose. A teaspoonful of Carlson lemon or orange flavored The Very Finest Fish Oil and two fish meals a week will put you right where you need to be. Or try easy to swallow Carlson Elite Omega-3 or Maximum Omega 2000 soft gels with your evening meal. To ensure freshness, all Carlson Fish Oils are closely managed from sea to store. Carlson sources the highest quality, deep, cold-water fish using traditional, sustainable methods. And like all Carlson omega-3s, freshness, potency, and purity are guaranteed. All Carlson Fish Oils are IFOS and IGEN non-GMO certified.
The bottom line is this: studies have shown that having a higher (vs lower) Omega-3 Index puts one at a decreased risk for a variety of health issues. These include heart disease, loss of cognitive function, Bipolar disorder, ADHD, Depression and Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Longer life has been associated with a higher Omega-3 Index in several studies. The Omega-3 Index Test is made available by the lab OmegaQuant. It is sold in some retail stores, some pharmacies and can be ordered online.
- JACC Heart Fail. 2018 Oct;6(10):833-843. doi: 10.1016/j.jchf.2018.03.011. Epub 2018 Aug 8.
- Nutrition Reviews, nuz073, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuz073
- Nutrients. 2019 Dec 27;12(1). pii: E74. doi: 10.3390/nu12010074.