You have never heard of Omega 3 capsules? By now, when you come across this article, you will have heard about it. Now you will certainly have some questions: what are these omega 3 capsules, why do I need them and are omega 3 capsules useful at all?
No worries! You are in the right place. We clarify all important questions about the omega 3 capsules and would like to give you a detailed insight here so that you understand the topic better and can decide for yourself whether you should take omega 3 capsules or not.
the essentials in brief
- Omega 3 fatty acids are not only essential for life, they are also responsible for numerous metabolic processes in our body. They are among the long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Omega 3 from algae is not only environmentally friendly and vegan, but also a great alternative for those who want to avoid animal products. Algae oil capsules are therefore the most sustainable way to consume DHA and EPA.
- According to the DGE (German Society for Nutrition), the recommended consumption of omega 3 fatty acids from fish for children and adults is 200 - 220 g per week. Even 80 - 150 g of low-fat and 70 g of high-fat fish are optimal.
Omega 3 capsules useful? what you should know
The most important thing first: not all fats are the same: The good fats of the omega-3 fatty acids are not only essential for life, but also essential for numerous metabolic processes in our body.
What are Omega 3 Capsules?
Omega 3 capsules consist of omega 3 fatty acids and belong to the group of long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids . Which we have to get from food. They are also among the good fats and come in three different forms:(1)
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
ALA cannot be produced by the body itself, which is why we have to get it from food. It is absorbed through vegetable oils such as linseed oil or rapeseed oil, but also through leafy vegetables, nuts or linseed and chia seeds. However, ALA must first be converted into EPA and DHA in the body in order to develop its full potential. The conversion rate here is just 2-5%.
EPA and DHA can be made in the body from ALA. The following table shows which organs and parts of the body contain the two fatty acids and what effect they have there:
|body part/organ||Effect||daily dose|
|Brain areas such as the cortex, and synapses||DHA contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function. (25% of the fat in the brain is DHA)(11)||250 mg DHA|
|Heart||DHA EPA make an important contribution to heart health and normal heart function.||250 mg EPA/DHA|
|eye (optical cells and retina)||DHA contributes to the maintenance of normal vision. 60% DHA fatty acid in photoreceptor cells.||250 mg DHA|
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy in small amounts and also essential for life. They help improve blood flow and inhibit blood clotting. They also have a blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory effect and have a positive effect on the triglyceride metabolism.
How do Omega 3 capsules work?
We have already explained to you what omega 3 fatty acids are and that they are very important for the body. Below we would like to show you again which different important functions EPA, DHA and ALA have in the metabolism:
- EPA and DHA contribute to normal heart function
- EPA and DHA help maintain normal blood pressure
- DHA helps maintain normal triglyceride (blood fat) levels
- DHA contributes to normal brain function
- DHA contributes to normal vision
- ALA helps maintain normal blood cholesterol levels
So make sure that you consume enough omega 3 fatty acids so that the processes in your body work properly.
Why should I take Omega 3 capsules?
According to studies, more than 75% of the German population is not optimally supplied with omega 3 fatty acids. Far too little fish is eaten and therefore too few omega-3 fatty acids are consumed. According to the DGE (German Society for Nutrition), children and adults should eat 200 - 220 g of fish per week. Even 80 - 150 g of low-fat and 70 g of high-fat fish are optimal.
Over 75% of the German population is not optimally supplied with omega 3 fatty acids.
A total of 16% of Germans eat no fish at all. About half of the adults eat the recommended weekly amount of 200 g of fish. In children, the amount is even four times lower.
Another problem is that consuming too many omega 6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) inhibits conversion to the biologically active omega 3 form EPA.(10)
The recommended amount for children and adults per week is 200 - 220 g of fish. Even 80 - 150 g of low-fat and 70 g of high-fat fish are optimal. (Image source: ruslan bogdanov MceegunFZ9o / Unsplash)
Therefore, care should be taken to keep the omega 6 fatty acid level low. You can do this by skipping sunflower oil and using more olive oil in the kitchen instead.
When and for whom is it useful to take Omega 3 capsules?
If you take in too few omega 3 fatty acids through food, you can cover your needs perfectly with omega 3 capsules.
To find out if you even have an omega 3 fatty acid deficiency, you can go to your family doctor. A special blood test was developed for this purpose, which measures the proportion of EPA and DHA in your blood. Here the doctor can determine whether you have a deficiency or whether your needs are well covered.
It doesn't matter whether the fish is freshly prepared, canned or frozen. The WHO (World Health Organization) requires a daily intake of more than 200 mg EPA and DHA as a basic supply to maintain the normal functions of the body.
Below is an overview of the basic supply of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Children up to 2 years: 100 mg/day
- Children from 2 years to prepuberty: 100 - 200 mg/ day
- Adults: 200 mg/day
There can also be an increased need for omega 3 fatty acids in various life situations:
|life situation||Effect||daily dose|
|Pregnant/breastfeeding||Since the unborn baby has to be supplied with the vital omega-3 fatty acids via the umbilical cord, the daily requirement of the expectant mother increases. Sufficient EPA and DHA supplies support the normal development of the baby's eyes and brain.||250mg EPA + DHA + 200mg DHA|
|athlete||Athletes have a higher need for omega 3 fatty acids because they can have a positive effect on the heart, muscles and joints. EPA and DHA support the resilience of muscles and joints during sport and recovery in the subsequent regeneration phase can improve.||1,000 – 2,000 mg EPA + DHA|
|Elderly people||Omega 3 fatty acids maintain gray matter in the brain and help improve brain function (5). This is important because as we get older, brain mass decreases by around 1% in old age.||2200 mg omega-3 fatty acids (of which 1,320 mg EPA + 880 mg DHA)|
|Cardiovascular disease(4.9)||People at risk of increased cardiovascular disease benefit from regular fish consumption, as the intake of EPA and DHA can protect the heart.||250 mg EPA + DHA|
The daily intake of up to 3000 mg omega 3 fatty acids is harmless for healthy people. However, if these dosages go beyond this, you should consult a doctor. This also applies to people who take anticoagulants.
Can omega 3 capsules also be harmful?
With omega 3 capsules one actually speaks more of side effects that can occur. As always, the dose makes the poison. According to the Federal Ministry for Risk Assessment, there are no undesirable side effects with a daily intake of 3 g of long-chain omega 3 fatty acids.
However, after taking a very high dose over a longer period of time, the following side effects could be observed:
- susceptibility to infection
- Prolongation of bleeding time
- cardiac arrhythmias
- nausea and vomiting
You should therefore definitely have a thorough check-up carried out by your family doctor before you resort to omega 3 fatty acids, minerals or trace elements , i.e. any dietary supplements. Health always comes first.
What are the differences between the various Omega 3 capsules?
Omega 3 fatty acids have numerous health-promoting effects, which is why the capsules are now successfully sold as dietary supplements. If you buy prescription drugs from the pharmacy in 1000 mg omega 3 fatty acids, you can be sure that they contain 460 mg EPA and 380 mg DHA (3).
Unfortunately, this amount varies significantly in over-the-counter dietary supplements. The problem is that the manufacturers of dietary supplements only have to declare the total content of omega 3 fatty acids and not. This means that you have no information about how much ALA, EPA or DHA is contained in detail, as this is not a must here.
So talk to your doctor beforehand and think carefully about whether you might use the prescription omega 3 capsules, since you know exactly how the contents are made up.
Can you lose weight with omega 3 capsules?
Omega-3 fatty acids can help you lose weight in a number of ways. According to one study, young, healthy adults consumed 6 grams of fish oil daily for 12 weeks. This resulted in an increase in metabolic rates of around 3.8% (6).
The metabolism can be measured by the metabolic rate. It determines the number of calories burned per day. When the metabolic rate is high, more calories are burned. This makes it easier on the one hand to lose weight and on the other hand to keep the desired weight.
Omega 3 fatty acids can also help reduce fat and body size.
Unfortunately, omega 3 fatty acids do not cause everyone to lose weight. However, they can still help build muscle mass and reduce body fat. Just because the weight on the scale isn't changing doesn't immediately mean that your body isn't changing.
Don't always rely on the scale to see results. The measuring tape is often more meaningful and shows you your successes. (Image source: huha inc OfVESgqrbJc / Unsplash)
When you build muscle, it is always heavier than fat. These in turn help to break down the fat. Swap the scale for a tape measure if you want to check your progress. This can often be more decisive than a scale.
Another study on a diet containing fresh oil showed a group of participants who consumed 3 g of fish oil over a period of time and lost around 0.6 g more body fat than those who received a placebo. The body weight of the placebo participants remained unchanged.(7)
So omega 3 fatty acids cannot explicitly help you lose weight. However, they can help you reduce your body fat percentage. So you can lose a few centimeters more body size.
Does taking Omega 3 capsules really make sense?
Now we come to the most important question of this article. To answer the question, we found a study that tested this question closely.
Unfortunately, the intake of Omega 3 capsules has not shown any effect after about 7.4 years.
In the ASCEND study, 15,480 patients with diabetes were given either fish oil capsules (1 g) or olive oil capsules (1 g) as a placebo. Unfortunately, taking omega 3 capsules has shown no effect after about 7.4 years. The risk of stroke, heart attack, TIA, or cardiovascular death was the same in both groups.
The study hereby proves that taking such a supplement makes no sense. It is important to emphasize here, however, that Omega 3 capsules are not fish. So, according to this study, you shouldn't immediately ban fish from your diet, which is considered a part of a healthy diet.(8)
Are there herbal alternatives to Omega 3 capsules?
If you now say that you are vegetarian or vegan or simply do not want to eat any products containing fish, we have good news for you. Omega 3 capsules are not only made from fish oil.
Fish have been feeding on aquatic plants for millions of years. Are you wondering why? Because they provide valuable omega-3. Especially microalgae, also known as spirulina and chlorella algae, are very popular with the fish. But also the Schizochytrium algae.
Algae are a great alternative to fresh oil. Algae also contain enough omega 3 fatty acids. They are also eco-friendly and vegan. (Image source: the-tampa-bay-estuary / Unsplash)
It survives without any light and feeds on plant remains. However, so that it can still grow, the alga synthesizes large amounts of the plant-based omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA on its own.(12)
Omega 3 from algae is environmentally friendly and vegan. The value chain is shortened here and the intermediate step ''fish'' is omitted. Omega 3 capsules made from algae oil are therefore the most sustainable way to consume EPA and DHA.(2)
Even if the intake of omega 3 capsules is very controversial, the study above shows very clearly that omega 3 capsules are not the same as eating fish. The capsules themselves do not have the same effect as when consumed fresh.
However, it has been confirmed that the omega 3 capsules have other positive effects on the body such as B. in weight loss or muscle regeneration. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself whether you think that omega 3 capsules make sense for your body or whether you simply go back to the normal version and try to incorporate more fish into your diet.
- Shahidi F, Ambigaipalan P. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Their Health Benefits. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2018 Mar 25;9:345-381. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-111317-095850. PMID: 29350557. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and their health benefits Source
- Willers V. UGBforum 3/17, pp. 134-135 Microalgae: an alternative to fish oil? microalgae and algal oil Source
- Brinton EA, Mason RP. Prescription omega-3 fatty acid products containing highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Lipids Health Dis. 2017 Jan 31;16(1):23. doi: 10.1186/s12944-017-0415-8. PMID: 28137294; PMCID: PMC5282870. Prescription Omega-3 Fatty Acid Products with Highly Purified Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) Source
- Abdelhamid AS, Brown TJ, Brainard JS, Biswas P, Thorpe GC, Moore HJ, Deane KH, Summerbell CD, Worthington HV, Song F, Hooper L. Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Feb 29;3(2):CD003177. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003177.pub5. PMID: 32114706; PMCID: PMC7049091. Omega-3 fatty acids for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Source
- Sydenham E, Dangour AD, Lim WS. Omega 3 fatty acid for the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Jun 13;(6):CD005379. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005379.pub3. PMID: 22696350. Omega-3 fatty acid to prevent cognitive decline and dementia Source
- Couet C, Delarue J, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Lamisse F. Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997 Aug;21(8):637-43. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0800451. PMID: 15481762. The effect of fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults Source
- Kabir M, Skurnik G, Naour N, Pechtner V, Meugnier E, Rome S, Quignard-Boulangé A, Vidal H, Slama G, Clément K, Guerre-Millo M, Rizkalla SW. Treatment for 2 mo with n 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces adiposity and some atherogenic factors but does not improve insulin sensitivity in women with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1670-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/86.5.1670. PMID: 18065585. Treatment of 2 months with polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces obesity and some atherogenic factors but does not improve insulin sensitivity in women with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial Source
- Veronika Schlimpert, published: 08/28/2018, Springer Nature © 2021 Springer Medizin Verlag GmbH. Part of Springer Nature Version: 1.77Fish oil capsules just don't help - ASCEND study proves that fish oil capsules have no effect Source
- Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002 Oct;56(8):365-79. doi: 10.1016/s0753-3322(02)00253-6. PMID: 12442909. The importance of the ratio of omega-6 / omega-3 essential fatty acids Source
- Wysoczański T, Sokoła-Wysoczańska E, Pękala J, Lochyński S, Czyż K, Bodkowski R, Herbinger G, Patkowska-Sokoła B, Librowski T. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and their Role in Central Nervous System - A Review. Curr Med Chem. 2016;23(8):816-31. doi: 10.2174/0929867323666160122114439. PMID: 26795198. Omega-3 fatty acids and their role in the central nervous system and the interaction of omega 6 Source
- Dyall SC. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Front Aging Neurosci. 2015 Apr 21;7:52. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2015.00052. PMID: 25954194; PMCID: PMC4404917.Long chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: A review of the independent and combined actions of EPA, DPA, and DHA Source
- Doughman SD, Krupanidhi S, Sanjeevi CB. Omega-3 fatty acids for nutrition and medicine: considering microalgae oil as a vegetarian source of EPA and DHA. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2007 Aug;3(3):198-203. doi: 10.2174/157339907781368968. PMID: 18220672.Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Nutrition and Medicine: Consideration of Microalgae Oil as a Vegetarian Source of EPA and DHA. Source