Are you wondering if omega-3 works? What effects does omega-3 have on your body? The effects of omega-3 fatty acids are often recommended as they can have beneficial properties for the body. It is often doubted whether the effects of omega-3 really deliver what they promise.
We want to pursue these questions in this article and give you clarity. We have informed ourselves about the effects of omega-3 and want to introduce you to the advantages, disadvantages and alternatives. We want to present this information to you neutrally and impartially in this article. So you can decide for yourself whether taking omega-3 is or could be for you in the future.
the essentials in brief
- Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that can have a positive effect on a person's cardiovascular system.
- There are many studies on omega-3, but they do not lead to a uniform picture of the effect in meta-analyses and there is therefore no consistent benefit so far.
- The daily amount of omega-3 intake is an estimate and amounts to 350-500 mg for an adult.
Omega-3 effect: what you should know?
In this section we want to give you an understanding of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids and you will get an overview of the most important questions and answers on this topic.
What is omega 3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, polyunsaturated fatty acids that the body can only produce in small amounts or not at all. Humans ingest fatty acids through dietary fats in the form of triglycerides. The triglycerides consist of one molecule of glycerin and 3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for humans.
Important omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA):
|Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)||supports the intellectual development in children and the preservation of intellectual abilities in adults. (1)|
|Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)||regulates inflammation, strengthens the immune system and has a mood-enhancing effect on mental problems. (2)|
|Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA)||serves as a basic building block to obtain DHA and EPA, but in its basic form is too inefficient to be converted in the body.|
What do you need omega-3 for?
Omega-3 fatty acids are an option for many people to reduce pain. There are various areas of application, which we would like to show you in this table.
|Omega-3 in pregnancy||DHA supports the fetus||It has been found that DHA, which belongs to the class of omega-3 fatty acids, provides 50-60mg to the fetus through the placenta. This indicates that children who have received the required amount from their mothers through the placenta are capable of more complex brain functions.(3)|
|Omega-3 in cardiovascular diseases||EPA reduces the risk of a heart attack||A high dose (4g) of EPA taken for years by people with cardiovascular problems has reduced a serious complication like a heart attack by 25 percent.(4)|
|Omega-3 for depression||Low omega-3 levels cause depression||People who have low levels of DHA or EPA may be more likely to suffer from depression.(5) Taking 1 mg of EPA daily shows antidepressant effects, while taking DHA does not have much of an effect.(6)|
|Omega-3 in schizophrenia||Fatty acid levels are lower in schizophrenia sufferers than in non-sufferers||A lack of fatty acids has been noticed in schizophrenia, whereby the intake of omega-3 fatty acids can bring about positive effects.(5) EPA has triggered positive effects in schizophrenia sufferers through its placebo effect.(7)|
|Omega-3 in cancer||Omega-3 intake may have a protective effect on prostate cancer||Consumption of EPA and DHA may have a protective effect against prostate cancer.(8) Higher levels of the two omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a lower likelihood of developing prostate cancer(9).|
What effect does omega-3 have on the body?
The effects of taking omega-3 vary. In small amounts, omega-3 is essential to life and can have many positive effects on the body. It inhibits blood clotting, improves the flow properties of the blood, has an anti-inflammatory effect and lowers blood pressure.
The positive effects of omega-3 are manifold.
In addition, it also has a beneficial effect on various diseases, such as mental problems or cardiovascular diseases and can prevent them. It can also be an important source in children in the development process.
The body benefits from the intake of omega-3, due to the positive properties and builds on them to unfold the effects in the body.
Which omega-3 has the best effect?
Omega-3 comes in a variety of forms, from popular capsules containing fish oil to getting the required amount from the diet. Fish products such as salmon, tuna or herring are very popular. 18% of Germans do not consume any fish products, which is why other sources are also needed.
Tender salmon coated with dill provides high-quality omega-3 fatty acids. (Image source: unsplash/ Wesual Click)
In addition to fish products, there are other products that contain a lot of omega-3. Linseed or linseed oil offer a lot of it, walnut oil or walnuts are also good. You can add the oils very well for a salad. The effect of food intake represents a natural connection with the body and this means that the body can absorb and implement it very well.
What do studies and science say about the effects of omega-3?
There are various studies that have looked at the effects of omega-3. The benefit is examined in different areas of application. There are some studies that have a positive effect on humans, but conversely there are also some studies that could not prove the effect of omega-3 and therefore consider them useless.
Intervention study shows the positive effects of taking omega-3 fatty acids on various brain areas.(10)
Depending on the study, it is therefore not possible to say conclusively whether omega-3 has a positive effect on the human body. As in many areas of science, there are representatives of the positive qualities and people who see this critically.
Thus, no final opinion can be made and you have to find out selectively whether the intake would be helpful for you for a complaint. You can talk to your doctor and try to see if it makes sense for you to take a daily omega-3 dose and what effects it has on you and your body.
What are the effects of an omega-3 deficiency?
Identifying a defect is very difficult. The family doctor can use a blood test to determine whether there is a deficiency of omega-3 in the body. Possible symptoms of a deficiency can be muscle weakness, poor eyesight, sleeping problems, skin blemishes or a feeling of restlessness.
In addition, the undersupply of omega-3 affects brain function and can therefore have negative effects. In addition, there can be a reduced ability to concentrate with a deficiency, and joint pain or arthritis can be promoted. The risk of suffering an ischemic stroke increases when omega-3 fatty acid levels are low.(11)
The fatty acid level is therefore important, if it is low it favors certain diseases. A lack of omega-3 can have various consequences, so it is important to take a decent amount in everyday life to prevent a deficiency.
Does omega-3 have side effects?
Omega-3 intake can also have side effects . When there is an increased amount of omega-3 in the body, it can lead to low blood pressure, your blood sugar level can rise or diarrhea can result from ingestion.(12)
Other side effects can cause weight gain, insomnia or heartburn. Taking fish oil with food, either with food or in combination with a capsule, can reduce side effects. However, if side effects caused by the consumption of fish oil occur over time, it is advised to stop taking them.
For a child, taking omega-3 is beneficial for brain development. (Image source: unsplash / Jelleke Vanooteghem)
The most important thing is to find a healthy dosage for you. You should therefore discuss with your doctor what dose of omega-3 would be optimal for your body in order to reduce any side effects.
How does it work on children?
In children, the intake of DHA and EPA is very important for the development of the body. A good supply of omega-3 provides positive effects in a child, for the development of the brain. It also helps to prevent mental problems or heart disease in a child.
Taking fish oil is very important for the brain and its development. The cognitive and visual abilities are strengthened by ingestion and processing is thus promoted.(13)
The daily dose of a child depends on the age:
- 2-4 years: 100-150 mg
- 4-6 years: 150-200 mg
- 6-10 years: 200-250 mg
By introducing an appropriate dose every day, the amount of omega-3 in the child's body can be kept constant and thus its positive effects on the child's development can be guaranteed.
What are the alternatives to omega-3?
There are different types of omega-3. For vegetarians and vegans, however, eating fish or taking animal products is out of the question. It is therefore important to have alternatives. The fish, which are considered good sources of omega-3, get their omega-3 from microalgae. These microalgae, especially spirulina or chlorella algae, are an important food option for the fish.
Algae do not need sunlight and synthesize large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of DHA and EPA to grow.
Algae are therefore considered an important alternative for the transport of omega-3 fatty acids. Being eco-friendly and vegan, they offer a wonderful source of DHA and EPA ingestion. This is favored by its sustainable nature, since for humans, the intermediate step fish is eliminated and we thus have a natural option for the supply of our body.
In addition to algae, walnuts, flaxseed or hemp oil can also be mentioned as alternatives, which provide humans with an increased amount of omega-3. Therefore, there are enough alternatives for you to ensure the right type of omega-3 intake for your needs.
The effect of omega-3 can be of help in many aspects, but one must be aware of a deficiency or the side effects. Science does not have a clear, conclusive opinion on omega-3 fatty acids, there are different results in the studies.
Omega-3 intake is available in various forms and can also be substituted with alternatives. The effect of omega-3 itself cannot be fully confirmed, but there are studies that highlight the positive properties and recommend a certain daily dose.
- Dunstan JA, Simmer K, Dixon G, Prescott SL. Cognitive assessment of children at age 2(1/2) years after maternal fish oil supplementation in pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2008 JanSource
- health.harvard.edu: Omega-3 fatty acids for mood disorders, David Mischoulon, 08/03/2018 Source
- Craig L Jensen, Effects of n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 83, Issue 6, June 2006, Pages 1452S-1457S Source
- Mozaffarian D, Wu JH. (n-3) fatty acids and cardiovascular health: are effects of EPA and DHA shared or complementary?. J Nutr. 2012;142(3):614S-625S Source
- Freeman MP, Hibbeln JR, Wisner KL, Davis JM, Mischoulon D, Peet M, Keck PE Jr, Marangell LB, Richardson AJ, Lake J, Stoll AL. Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 DecSource
- Richardson AJ. n-3 Fatty acids and mood: the devil is in the detail. Br J Nutr. 2008 Feb;99(2):221-3. Source
- Peet M, Brind J, Ramchand CN, Shah S, Vankar GK. Two double-blind placebo-controlled pilot studies of eicosapentaenoic acid in the treatment of schizophrenia. Schizophr Res. 2001 Apr 30 Source
- MacLean CH, Newberry SJ, Mojica WA, Khanna P, Issa AM, Suttorp MJ, Lim YW, Traina SB, Hilton L, Garland R, Morton SC. Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on cancer risk: a systematic review. JAMA. 2006 JanSource
- Chavarro JE, Stampfer MJ, Li H, Campos H, Kurth T, Ma J. A prospective study of polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in blood and prostate cancer risk. Cancer Epidemic Biomarkers Prev. 2007 Jul;16. Source
- gesundheitsforschung-bmbf.de: Mentally fit with omega-3 fatty acids and Resveratrol Source
- Iso H, Sato S, Umemura U, Kudo M, Koike K, Kitamura A, Imano H, Okamura T, Naito Y, Shimamoto T: Linoleic acid, other fatty acids, and the risk of strokes. In: Stroke. 33, 2002, pp. 2086-2093. Source
- Bradberry JC, Hilleman DE. Overview of omega-3 Fatty Acid therapies. P T. 2013;38(11):681-691. Source
- Kuratko CN, Barrett EC, Nelson EB, Salem N Jr. The relationship of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with learning and behavior in healthy children: a review. nutrients. 2013;5(7):2777-2810. Published 2013 Jul 19. Source