Omega-3 fatty acids are a class of essential fats that the human body cannot make (hence their classification as essential) and must be obtained from the diet.
The three types of omega-3 fatty acids are:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
ALA is found predominantly in plants (like walnuts and flax seeds), while EPA and DHA are found mostly in animal foods, especially fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines.
In this guide, we'll discuss further why omega-3 fatty acids are essential, as well as suggested omega-3 dosage guidelines and what to look for in an omega-3 supplement.
Let's first start by discussing the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.
What are the Benefits of Omega-3?
Supports Cardiovascular Health
The most substantial evidence in support of consuming sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids is regarding cardiovascular health.
The reason this is noteworthy is that heart attacks and strokes are the leading causes of death worldwide.
Epidemiological data indicate that populations with the highest intakes of omega-3 fatty acids have very low rates of heart disease. <1,2>
Additional studies note that omega-3 fatty acids may help <3,4,5>:
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Prevent Plaque Buildup Along Arterial Walls
- Reduce Triglycerides
- Improve Cholesterol Levels
- Decrease Inflammation
Despite the effects that omega-3 fatty acids may have on heart health, it’s worth mentioning that no research to date has shown that omega-3 supplements can prevent heart attacks or other cardiovascular-related events.
Supports Brain Health & Function
Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA in particular, are vital to the health and wellness of your brain.
DHA accounts for 40% of polyunsaturated fatty acid content in the brain, as well as 60% in the retina.
Due to the importance that DHA plays in the development and function of the brain and CNS, it’s no wonder why DHA is frequently added to prenatal vitamins and infant formula.
Furthermore, several studies have found a link between omega-3 fatty acid intake during pregnancy and <6,7>:
- Better Communication Skills
- Improved Socialization Skills
- Higher Intelligence
- Less Frequent Behavioral Problems
- Decreased Risk of Developmental Delay, Autism, and ADHD
Supports Cell Structure & Function
Omega-3 fatty acids serve an essential part of cell membranes throughout the body, and they also affect the function of cell receptors in these membranes.
More specifically, omega-3 fatty acids can help modulate cellular signaling events, enhance membrane protein function, and support gene expression. <8>
Support Hormone Production
Yet another vital role omega-3 fatty acids serve in the body is that of a building block for hormones. <9>
Hormones are the “chemical messengers” that instruct the various tissues in your body what to do and when to do it.Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids could impact the function or production of these important chemical messengers.
May Help Combat Depression
Various studies note that high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids (200–2,200 mg per day) may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.< 11,12>
Omega-3 for Specific Health Conditions
Since omega-3 fatty acids exert such a diverse array of effects in the body (blood clotting, contraction, and relaxation of artery walls, inflammation, etc.), it's easy to see that they may be beneficial in the treatment or prevention of certain diseases.
More specifically, omega-3 fatty acids have been noted to help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis. They may also play a protective role in certain types of cancer as well as other conditions, including <7,8,9>:
- Postpartum Depression
- Menopausal Problems,
- Postmenopausal Osteoporosis
- Breast Cancer
Omega-3 Benefits for Hair
Beyond their importance for metabolic health, omega-3 fatty acids may also improve the appearance and quality of your external features, particularly your hair.
A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that Fish Oil, DHA in particular, promotes hair growth via the anagen-activating pathways in dermal papilla cells (DPC). <10>
In case you weren't aware, the dermal papilla cells are a vital component of optimal hair growth.
What this means is that, beyond impacting metabolic health, consuming sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids may also affect the look and quality of your external features, such as your skin, hair, and nails.
Official Omega-3 Dosage Guidelines
To date, no “official” guideline has been established for how much omega-3 you should get each day.
And, to make matters just a bit more complicated, opinions also vary amongst the significant worldwide health organizations as to an "optimal" amount individuals should get.
Generally speaking, though, an intake between 250–500 mg combined EPA and DHA is recommended each day for healthy adults.
If you do not typically consume a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., you don't eat a lot of fatty fish, walnuts, or flax seeds), then you may want to look into some omega-3 supplements.
SteelFit® offers 100% vegan and vegetarian-friendly omega-3 supplements in Pure Steel AhiFlower®.
AhiFlower® is a plant that contains a type of omega-3 fatty acid (Stearidonic acid) that converts more efficiently (4x more efficient than ALA, to be exact) in the body to EPA and DHA that ALA.
If you want to learn more about AhiFlower®, click here.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids that cannot be made in the body and thus, must be obtained through the diet.
Omega-3 intake has been associated with several health benefits, particularly regarding cardiovascular, cognitive, and metabolic health.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, flax seeds, salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
If you don’t consume enough omega-3s in your diet, then it’s typically recommended to supplement with a high-quality omega-3 supplement, such as Pure Steel AhiFlower® from SteelFit®.
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- Peter S, Chopra S, Jacob JJ. A fish a day, keeps the cardiologist away! - A review of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the cardiovascular system. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2013;17(3):422–429. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.111630
- Cazzola, R., Russo-Volpe, S., Miles, E. A., Rees, D., Banerjee, T., Roynette, C. E., Cestaro, B. (2007). Age- and dose-dependent effects of an eicosapentaenoic acid-rich oil on cardiovascular risk factors in healthy male subjects. Atherosclerosis, 193(1), 159–167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2006.06.008
- Ciubotaru, I., Lee, Y.-S., & Wander, R. C. (2003). Dietary fish oil decreases C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and triacylglycerol to HDL-cholesterol ratio in postmenopausal women on HRT. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 14(9), 513–521.
- Miyoshi, T., Noda, Y., Ohno, Y., Sugiyama, H., Oe, H., Nakamura, K., … Ito, H. (2014). Omega-3 fatty acids improve postprandial lipemia and associated endothelial dysfunction in healthy individuals - a randomized cross-over trial. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & Pharmacotherapie, 68(8), 1071–1077. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2014.10.008
- Helland, I. B., Smith, L., Saarem, K., Saugstad, O. D., & Drevon, C. A. (2003). Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children’s IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics, 111(1), e39-44. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.111.1.e39
- Judge, M. P., Harel, O., & Lammi-Keefe, C. J. (2007). Maternal consumption of a docosahexaenoic acid-containing functional food during pregnancy: benefit for infant performance on problem-solving but not on recognition memory tasks at age 9 mo. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(6), 1572–1577. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.6.1572
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- Kang JI, Yoon HS, Kim SM, et al. Mackerel-Derived Fermented Fish Oil Promotes Hair Growth by Anagen-Stimulating Pathways. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(9):2770. Published 2018 Sep 14. doi:10.3390/ijms19092770
- Sublette ME, Ellis SP, Geant AL, Mann JJ. Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in clinical trials in depression. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011;72(12):1577–1584. doi:10.4088/JCP.10m06634
- Osher Y, Belmaker RH. Omega-3 fatty acids in depression: a review of three studies. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2009;15(2):128–133. doi:10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00061.x