A supplement can help fill the gap to receive the optimal omega-3 dosage for fatty liver
As many as 1 in 4 people in the U.S. have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) according to the American Liver Foundation. This equates to roughly 100 million individuals, also making it the most common liver disease in children. Research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may help treat this condition, making it important to determine the optimal omega-3 dosage for fatty liver for providing a therapeutic effect.
Omega-3s and fatty liver
The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) explains that omega-3s help provide the body energy while also playing a role in a variety of functions related to the circulatory, respiratory, immune, and endocrine systems. The three primary omega-3s are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
A 2016 meta-analysis of 10 studies involving 577 people with NAFLD or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) reported that omega-3s help improve liver fat, also improving gamma-glutamyltransferase, triglyceride, and high-density lipoprotein levels. Based on these findings, which were published in Gastroenterology Research and Practice, researchers concluded that the optimal omega-3 dosage for fatty liver may help treat NAFLD.
A 2019 review in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care supports omega-3s for reducing liver fat in patients with NAFLD, especially in adults and children with obesity. It also explains that, while people with NAFLD and NASH liver diseases tend to have higher levels of hepatic saturated and monounsaturated fat, they also have lower levels of hepatic omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is associated with inflammation, lipotoxicity, oxidative stress, and fibrosis in the liver.
Determining omega-3 dosage for fatty liver
If omega-3s can help treat fatty liver, the next step is to determine the optimal omega-3 dosage for fatty liver. This ensures that the patient gets enough of this fatty acid type to provide positive effects.
What makes this somewhat difficult is that the only omega-3 with established recommended amounts is ALA. This optimal omega-3 dosage for fatty liver dose recommendation, according to the ODS, is that teen boys and men consume an average of 1.6 grams of ALA daily, with teen girls and women needing slightly less, or 1.1 grams per day.
Looking at the 2016 meta-analysis previously mentioned, the 10 studies analyzed each provided participants differing amounts of EPA and DHA. For instance, one involved a 4,000 mg dose of omega-3s daily, with a split of 46% EPA and 38% DHA. Another study involved an 830 mg daily dosage of omega-3s with a 56.6% EPA and 28.9% DHA split. Differing amounts were also present in the 2019 review.
While it’s still somewhat unclear as to the best amount of EPA and DHA for individuals with fatty liver, a 2018 meta-analysis in Medicine helps provide some clarity on the recommended dosage of omega-3s, in general. It indicates that, after reviewing seven studies, the median dosage of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids was 2.7 grams per day. Additionally, the median duration of treatment was six months.
How to increase omega-3s
One way to increase omega-3s in the diet is to consume foods high in these fatty acids. Cold-water fatty fish (salmon, tuna, herring, etc.), nuts (English and black walnuts), seeds (chia), plant oils (flaxseed, soybean), and fortified foods are all good sources of omega-3.
For patients who struggle to get enough omega-3s in their diet, a supplement can help fill the gap to receive the optimal omega-3 dosage for fatty liver. In many cases, this supplement is in the form of fish oil or cod liver oil. Krill oil and algal oil are additional options. While doses can vary, these supplements often provide 1,000 mg of fish oil, according to the ODS, including roughly 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA.
Omega-3 safety and additional recommendations
If the patient is taking other medications, such as warfarin and other anticoagulant medicines, these supplements may not be appropriate due to potential interactions. Their primary care provider can help determine whether an omega-3 supplement is safe for them based on their health and physical condition.
Suggesting that patients make healthy dietary changes can help as well since research connects the intake of simple carbohydrates with the development of NAFLD and the intake of non-digestible carbs with providing the opposite effect. This involves reducing the intake of foods high in fructose and increasing foods high in fiber.
The research further indicates that reducing saturated fat intake and increasing unsaturated fat can have positive effects as well, making this another valuable form of dietary guidance for patients with fatty liver.