It’s probably quicker if we look at who shouldn’t be taking Omega 3 supplements (which we discuss below), because almost everybody’s body needs essential fatty acids (EFAs) to function on a fairly basic level. However, there are certain groups that need higher levels of EPA and DHA in their diet.
Jackie McCusker, registered nutritional therapist at the University of Westminster’s Be Well London clinic, explains: “Anyone with deficiency symptoms, or who has tested deficient, anyone with a chronic inflammatory condition, anxiety or depression, stress, cognitive decline, diabetes, a history of coronary heart disease, children that have been diagnosed with ADHD, pregnant women, breastfeeding women… In all these cases and many more their requirements for Omega 3 significantly increase.”
Children need to consume adequate amounts of DHA to support their rapid brain growth and development.
DHA is particularly important for the brain and eye development of babies and young children. This is why it is so important for women to take an Omega 3 supplement during their pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Children also need to consume adequate amounts of DHA to support their rapid brain growth and development. The brain increases in mass by 3.5 times by the age of five. No wonder it needs a little extra to help it grow.
Your location is another factor to consider. There are also certain times of the year when we may need more Omega 3, such as during winter when we are severely deficient in solar energy; Omega 3 can help alleviate symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
According to clinical nutritionist Kamilla Schaffner: “City dwellers are subject to the environmental impact of living in a micro-environment, where they breathe exhaust fumes outside, and recycled air in their office. Add to that the artificial light, stress from their work, a poor diet and the over-consumption of stimulants, such as caffeine and alcohol, and it is easy to see how professional people – particularly women – become deficient in Omega 3.”
It’s not just people with health problems or deficiencies that need to take a supplement. There is much research into the positive effects Omega 3 can have on athletes. One study, by the Centre for Human Nutrition, Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine, found that taking an Omega 3 supplement led to a 50% increase in the upregulation of mTOR, which is the genetic signalling pathway that stimulates lean muscle growth.
According to Dr Marc Bubbs, a naturopathic doctor, strength coach and author in Canada, if you’re an athlete, or just training intensely, fish oil supplements can be a “game changer”.
Who shouldn’t be taking Omega 3 supplements?
People on blood-thinning medication (eg warfarin, aspirin, plavix) or other medications should consult their GP and be monitored as Omega 3s may be contraindicated. In some diseases such as diabetes, Omega 3 supplementation needs to be used with caution, as it may increase fasting blood sugar levels. Talk to your doctor if you are taking medications to lower your blood sugar.