Given its popularity, it should be no surprise if your patients are currently taking omega 3 supplements.
They may take them not just for specific health issues, but as part of an overall wellness lifestyle.
Regardless of why your patients take omega 3, it is vital they take a sufficient dose in order to get the maximum benefit. Any omega 3 supplement that your patients take must also include a proper combination of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids, which are the most beneficial types of omega 3. On top of that, doses of omega 3 for combating specific health conditions are higher than those for general wellness.
How can you
help your patients sort out which dose is the right fit for them?
The best source of omega 3 is fatty fish, such as cod or salmon, which your patients should consume at least twice a week. If they are vegan or allergic to fish, they can obtain omega 3 from certain algae sources, but those sources are not as efficient as those found in fatty fish.
The other alternative is omega 3 supplements.
Although there is no set guideline for a daily intake of omega 3 supplements,
many well-regarded health organizations suggest a minimum of 250 mg to 500 mg
of omega 3 with a combination of EPA and DHA.1
Cardiovascular health is probably the main
reason your patients may be taking omega 3 supplements for a specific health
condition. As a general rule, these patients will require a higher dose of
omega 3 than those taking it strictly for wellness.
A large study in the journal Lancet followed 11,000 participants who
took a daily 850-mg dose of omega 3 (combined EPA and DHA) for three years.2
The researchers noted that there was a 25 percent reduction in heart attacks,
and a 45 percent reduction in sudden death, among the study group.
The American Heart Association updated its
guidelines in 2017. It recommends that patients with coronary heart disease
take 1000 mg of omega 3 daily, and those with high triglycerides consume 2000
mg to 4000 mg of omega 3.3
Depression and anxiety
An interesting 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry performed
a meta-analysis of a number of smaller studies examining the effects of omega 3
on depression and anxiety.4 A meta-analysis pools together the
results of smaller studies to look for patterns of similarities in the results,
in hopes of strengthening their individual findings.
In the case of this meta-analysis, the
researchers found that daily doses of omega 3 ranging between 200 mg and 2200
reduced symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Furthermore, supplements with
a greater amount of EPA than DHA were the most effective in reducing symptoms
of mood disorders.4
Pregnancy and lactation
There is a
sizeable body of research showing the benefit of omega 3 supplements,
particularly DHA, both during pregnancy and lactation. A 2010 article in the
journal Reviews in Obstetrics &
Gynecology summarized some of the studies in this area of research.5
Most official guidelines recommend that pregnant and lactating women add an
extra 200 mg of DHA to the recommended adult dose of omega 3 supplements.6
Omega 3 is not only one of the best
researched supplements in terms of benefits, but is also one of the most
versatile in terms of the various conditions for which it can be used. If your
patients are already taking omega 3 supplements, or considering doing so, take
some time to discuss what their correct dose should be for optimum benefits.
- EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products,
Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). Scientific opinion on the tolerable upper intake level of
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic
acid (DPA). EFSA Journal. 2012;10(7):2815.
- [No authors listed]. Dietary
supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after
myocardial infarction: Results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Gruppo Italiano
per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto miocardico. Lancet. 1999 Aug 7;354(9177):447-55.
- Siscovick DS, Barringer TA,
Fretts AM, et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (fish oil) supplementation and
the prevention of clinical cardiovascular disease: a science advisory from the
American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017 Apr
- Sublette ME, Ellis SP, Geant AL,
Mann JJ. Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in
clinical trials in depression. Journal
of Clinical Psychiatry. 2011;72(12):1577-1584.
- Coletta JM, Bell SJ, Roman AS. Omega-3 fatty acids and pregnancy. Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2010;3(4):163-171.
- Koletzko, B, Lien E, Agostoni C,
et al. The roles of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy,
lactation and infancy: Review of current knowledge and consensus
recommendations. Journal of Perinatal Medicine.