“With supplements you don’t have to concern yourself with how much you’ve eaten. It’s not negotiable. You just take the same fish oil every day.”
Clinical nutritionist Kamilla Schaffner from My London Nutritionist, a clinical nutrition and dietetics practice
How much Omega 3 fish oil per day?
You’ve read the articles, pored over the medical studies and are now about to become one of the millions already taking Omega 3. Great decision. From our brains to our hearts to our skin (and all of the trillion cells in between) taking a fish oil supplement is such a simple, accessible and affordable way to boost the health of every inch of our bodies.
Whether your goal is to manage your joint pain, balance your hormones or boost your complexion, taking Omega 3 has been proven to help. But while the medical world is in agreement as to its benefits for your body, a quick scan of the Internet reveals little consensus when it comes to one important factor - how much Omega 3 we should all be taking.
The reason for this is simple according to Jackie McCusker, nutritional therapist at the University of Westminster’s Be Well London clinic. “The recommended dose of Omega 3 fatty acids for each individual is different, dependent upon on their health,” she told us. “If they have an inflammatory disorder, such as arthritis, diabetes, depression, or a history of coronary heart disease, their requirements for EPA will significantly increase. If they are pregnant, their requirement for DHA will be more significant.”
So what is the right daily dose of Omega 3 fatty acids for you? When and how should you take your fish oil to see maximum results? And is there anything you shouldn’t take your fish oil with, such as coffee or other supplements? Read on to find out.
How much Omega 3 a day do we need?
There isn’t a simple answer to that question as there is no consensus among experts on the ideal Omega 3 RDA (recommended daily amount).
For general good health, leading health agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggest that the minimum amount of combined EPA and DHA healthy adults should be having per day is 250-500mg. Our own UK Food Standards Agency recommends at least two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. This would work out to around 300mg of EPA and DHA combined per day.
What Omega 3 fish oil dosage will provide a noticeable benefit to your health?
Whether you want to improve your mood or clear up that stubborn patch of eczema, experts believe you should be shooting for much more than the bare minimum dose of 250-500mg to see some benefits. That’s because most of the Omega 3 benefits you read about have come from clinical or medical trials and the doses used in trials are normally much, much higher than the amount of Omega 3 you’d get by eating two pieces of fish a week.
To see a noticeable difference in your health, the consensus among the experts is that adults should take between 2,000-3,000mg of EPA and DHA combined per day.
For example the recommended daily dose of Omega 3 suggested by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) for normal blood pressure is 3,000mg of EPA and DHA, while arthritis organisations suggest a minimum of 2,700mg of EPA and DHA are necessary to see a decrease in joint pain.
Our Bare Biology Lion Heart fish oil is the only product on the market that gives you this therapeutic dose of Omega 3 in a single spoonful. This is why we call it ‘clinical strength’, because taking a teaspoon a day of our high dose Omega 3 fish oil will give you the amount generally recommended for most of the health conditions that Omega 3 has been proven to help with.
A teaspoon of Lion Heart gives you 3,500mg of Omega 3 in total, including a whopping 2,000mg of EPA and 1,000mg DHA. If you were to try and get this much Omega 3 from another manufacturer’s best-selling capsule, you’d have to take 28 of them per day. Not only would this end up costing you a lot more, you’d also be consuming 220 calories (and would probably have an extremely upset stomach).
“Grey matter is fat so if you’re not getting enough Omega 3 it affects your central nervous system. We need EFAs for the neurons in our brains to fire impulses. Mental illnesses such as depression can occur when this process does not work correctly.”Clinical nutritionist Kamilla Schaffner from My London Nutritionist, a clinical nutrition and dietetics practice
How long will I need to take Omega 3 before I see a difference in my health?
It’s important to take this clinical dose for at least three months, because it takes this long for the EPA and DHA in our cells to reach optimum levels, especially if your Omega 3 levels are low to start with.
Omega 3 deficiency symptoms
So how can you tell if your Omega 3 index is low? According to Kamilla Schaffner, a clinical nutritionist who runs My London Nutritionist, poor emotional health is an early warning sign that you may be low on essential fatty acids (EFAs).
“Most people don’t treat their diet as a priority, but it can dictate the way you feel,” she explains. “Grey matter is fat so if you’re not getting enough Omega 3 it affects your central nervous system. We need EFAs for the neurons in our brains to fire impulses. Mental illnesses such as depression can occur when this process does not work correctly.”
Schaffner says the best way to check is to consult a fully qualified nutritional practitioner who can refer you for a blood test to measure the essential fatty acids in your red blood cells.
Other secondary Omega 3 deficiency symptoms to look for include:
Dry, itchy or bumpy skin
Dry brittle hair and dandruff
Brittle, fraying nails
What is the recommended daily dose of Omega 3 for my own health condition?
There are many health conditions that high dose Omega 3 fish oil has been proven to help with.
Omega 3 dosage for heart health
Heart UK suggest an intake of 500mg each day for general heart health, while the American Heart Association recommend that patients with high triglycerides take 2,000-4,000mg of combined EPA and DHA each day.
Omega 3 dosage for arthritis
Research published in the Archives of Medical Research found that patients who took at least 2,700mg of Omega 3 were able to reduce the amounts of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs they were taking, because their joints were much less swollen and tender. Arthritis.org also recommends the same amount, 2,700mg a day, to see an improvement in joint pain.
Omega 3 dosage for depression
The links between Omega 3 and depression are so well-studied, that a diet rich in oily fish is advised by most mental health organisations, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists. While there are no official guidelines when it comes to the correct fish oil dosage for depression and anxiety, studies have shown that high doses of Omega 3, from 200 to 2,200mg per day, can reduce symptoms of depression.
Omega 3 for mood swings
For low moods, the American Psychiatric Association recommends 1,000mg to 9,000mg of Omega 3 a day.
Omega 3 dosage for ADHD
A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology showed the positive effect of 480mg of DHA on cognition, behaviour and mood. This is the same children’s dose of Omega 3 found in a 1ml serving of Bare Biology’s Super Hero.
Omega 3 dosage for hormonal problems
A 2013 clinical trial gave 45 women with PCOS 1,500mg of Omega 3 daily for six months. They saw a significant drop in testosterone levels as well as an improvement in abnormal hair growth, BMI and insulin resistance.
Omega 3 pregnancy recommended dose
According to a review in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the minimum dietary goal for pregnant women is 300mg of DHA. In the US, the National Institute for Health tells expectant women to aim for precisely that amount. At Bare Biology, our Bump & Glory fish oil contains 560mg DHA in one tiny capsule, so more than enough to support your growing bump.
What’s the best way to take Omega 3 fish oil?
The way you take Omega 3 fish oil can boost the way it’s absorbed by your body, meaning you’ll get more useful EPA and DHA to where it’s needed.
Whether you’re taking the oil as a liquid or capsule, it’s best taken with meals, during, or directly after. It’s not dangerous or unhealthy to take oil or capsules on an empty stomach, it’s just because at mealtimes there’ll be more acid in your stomach and intestines. Not only does this help break down the capsules, it can also enhance the absorption of the oil and prevent any side effects such as heartburn or indigestion.
And, as a side benefit, taking Omega 3 with your meals will help increase your body’s absorption of fat soluble vitamins and minerals found in the food you’re eating itself!
Although it doesn’t really matter what time you take your Omega 3, knocking back the oil the same time every day will help you to remember to take it consistently. And taking it daily is very important or it will take longer to see results.
What’s the best meal to take my Omega 3 fish oil with?
For optimum absorption a big meal like dinner is best, particularly if it includes a good serving of healthy fats. The bile and enzymes produced will help you breakdown the fat, helping to transport the Omega 3 to the parts of the body that need it most.
Can I split the dose?
You could do if that works for you and you remember to take it. There is also a school of thought suggesting that splitting a dose may help your body absorb more Omega 3, particularly if you’re taking it in capsule form. But if it’s a hassle, just stick to whatever is most convenient. After all, you can’t absorb any Omega 3 at all if you forget to take it!
Tips on how to to take our fish oil liquid
While we think that Bare Biology Lion Heart fish oil doesn’t taste fishy at all (in fact all you can taste is the Sicilian lemon and a hint of the sea), you can disguise the taste of Omega 3 fish oil within any food that is cold or at room temperature.
Besides the usual juices and smoothies, some good suggestions include eating it with pesto or even hummus. Just make sure the food isn’t heated up, because Omega 3 oils degrade when exposed to heat, oxygen and light. The quicker it’s consumed once out of the bottle the better.
Is there anything I shouldn’t take it with?
Although it won’t cause you any harm to take Omega 3 fish oil with just about any food or drink, there are a few things that may affect its absorption. Avoid the following to make sure you get the maximum from your supplement.
Avoid taking Omega 3 fish oil with alcohol
Although it won’t make you ill, knocking back your Omega 3 with a glass of wine is not recommended. Alcohol can affect acid production and delay stomach-emptying, meaning your fish oil may not be digested properly. When you drink a glass of wine, your body works extra hard to eliminate the alcohol. In fact it prioritises the digestion of alcohol ahead of other nutrients including carbs, proteins and fats.
Avoid taking Omega 3 fish oil with coffee or tea
The caffeine in coffee or tea can speed up the digestive process, increasing the contractions that force food through your digestive tract. When Omega 3 is moved more quickly through the digestive system, there will be less time for you to absorb all those lovely essential fatty acids.
Can I take Omega 3 fish oil with evening primrose oil?
Evening primrose oil is an Omega 6 that contains GLA (gammalinolenic acid), an essential fatty acid that is hard to come by in our diets but that we can make ourselves through linolenic acid. Many people take it for symptoms such as arthritis and breast pain.
It’s safe to take both, but remember that Omega 6 is already very prevalent in our diets and we’re taking Omega 3 to try to reset this imbalance. If you’re taking evening primrose oil for a medical reason (for example, you’re unable to make GLA from your diet) it may be best to take it at a different time of day to your fish oil.
Is it safe to take Omega 3 fish oils if I regularly take aspirin?
Fish oils are contraindicated with all blood thinning drugs. Therefore it’s not recommended anyone has Omega 3 fish oil while taking them.
Similarly there is a contraindication with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. It’s best to wait at least four hours after taking them before taking fish oil. If you’ve been taking these sorts of drugs for long periods of time, it’s worth consulting your GP or a registered healthcare practitioner.
Is it safe to take a high dose Omega 3 fish oil?
One well-known paleo diet guru has recommended a maximum daily dose of Omega 3 as high as 20,000mg fish oil a day! However, clinical nutritionist Kamilla Schaffner says these very high doses should only be given under supervision. She says it’s safe to take 2,000mg-3,000mg of high quality fish oil daily, as long as you don’t have any underlying health issues or chronic illness and are not due for surgery.
Dr Loren Cordain, who wrote The New York Times best seller The Paleo Diet, agrees that if you are taking more than 3,000mg of EPA and DHA per day, you should see your doctor first, as high intakes can prevent blood from clotting and may cause excessive nose bleeds.
Can you overdose on Omega 3 fish oil?
It is possible to take too much Omega 3 although this is very rare. Taking too much all in one go could lead to short-term symptoms like nausea, indigestion and bloating.
Omega 3 fish oil side effects
According to nutritionist Catherine Collins, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, Omega 3 has few side effects. “In high doses it can relax the muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus/top of the stomach and cause reflux or heartburn,” she says.
“Omega 3’s anti-inflammatory effect notionally has the potential to influence blood-clotting mechanisms, making blood less likely to clot. This would have implications for gastric bleeding, risk of haemorrhagic stroke etc. However this potential effect is thought not to be significant in daily life.”
Professor Lesley Braun, a senior research fellow from the department of medicine at Monash University in Melbourne, analysed the research around bleeding and found that randomised trials and observational studies conducted in hospitals with inpatients “largely failed to find evidence of clinically significant bleeding at standard doses”.
This conclusion is supported by a 2013 review of 10 trials involving 994 adults, over 60 years of age, which reported no difference in total adverse rates between placebo and fish oil groups.
“In practice the potential benefits of Omega 3 EFAs outweigh possible bleeding risks for the vast majority of people, when used as clinically indicated,” says Professor Braun. “As with all people taking warfarin, INR [a measure of how long it takes for blood to clot] should continue to be monitored and medication dosage adjusted if there’s a significant change. Additionally people with bleeding disorders or listed for neurosurgery need special supervision.”
Is it best to take an Omega 3 fish oil liquid or capsule?
The key benefit of taking Omega 3 in liquid form is that oil tends to be absorbed better. You rely on your digestive system to effectively break down the capsule before it can absorb the Omega 3. Most brands use pork or beef gelatin, which is very tough and therefore harder to breakdown. We use fish gelatin, which is easier on your digestion and also means our supplements are suitable for non-meat eaters.
The key benefit of taking capsules is convenience. There are no drips and no risk of spilling (and wasting) the supplement, which makes them more suitable when you’re travelling.
So what is the best Omega 3 fish oil dosage for you?
Taking an Omega 3 fish oil is such an easy, accessible and affordable way to boost the health of all the cells in your body, it’s a wonder not everyone is taking it!
However, to see a noticeable benefit the experts agree that you’ll need to take a therapeutic dose. Most of the conditions that Omega 3 can help with need to be treated with between 2,000mg-3,000mg per day for at least three months before you’ll see a difference in your symptoms.
Luckily you can get this dose by taking just one teaspoon per day of a clinical strength Omega 3 fish oil such as Lion Heart from Bare Biology. Other brands may say 1,000mg on the packaging, but be wary as this is normally just the weight of the capsule and the amount of EPA and DHA may well be far less.
If you’re finding it hard to take (perhaps you’re getting indigestion) you could always start with half a teaspoon of oil first or just one capsule and work your way up to the maximum dose.
For some stubborn conditions, people do take more than the maximum amount recommended on the packaging, but it’s always best to do this under medical supervision. Make sure you consult your doctor first.