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Omega 3 Oil Supplement Benefits and Dosage

Essential for brain health, omega 3 makes up 40% of your grey matter. Explore the benefits in this comprehensive guide. 

ingredients 03 EPA-omega-3 illustration
Sophie Medlin
Sophie Medlin
Head of Nutritional Research
May 11, 2020
7 min read

Research studies have found that a significant number of adults don't get enough omega 3 fatty acids through their supplements and their diet. 

For example, a study by the Global Nutrition and Health Alliance (GNHA) found that while more than half of adults knew that omega 3 fats were important for heart health and brain health, the vast majority of adults had suboptimal levels of omega 3s when tested.

Whether you're seeking to enhance your current omega 3 intake, or you're exploring this topic for the first time, the following guide will outline everything you need to know about omega 3 fatty acids, including:

  • What omega 3 fatty acids do

  • Why omega 3 is important for your wellness

  • How omega 3 benefits your brain health

  • How to know if you're not getting enough omega 3s

  • What to eat to boost your dietary intake of omega 3s

  • What to look for in your omega 3 supplements

What is the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV—formerly RDA) of omega 3?

There hasn't been and NRV established in the UK for omega 3. But, the Australian government suggests the NRV of omega 3 fatty acids, including ALA, EPA, and DHA is 160mg/day for men, 90mg for women. But, it's worth noting that needs change based on factors like age or pregnancy.

In every Smart Supplement dose

125mg of DHA omega 3, and 250mg of omega 3 EPA — shown to be the most beneficial quantities for optimum brain and body health.

Omega 3 functions 

What are omega 3 fatty acids?

Omega 3 fats are a type of essential polyunsaturated fat. Your body needs these fats, but your body can't make them on its own (hence the term "essential), which highlights the importance of getting enough omega 3s through your food and your supplements.

Omega 3s are foundational to your brain health and overall health—quite literally—because they help to form the very structure of your cells and are therefore critical for the basic functioning of your body on a cellular level. 

What are the types of omega 3 fatty acids?

There are actually three types of omega 3 fatty acids:

  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid): You'll find this type of fat in seafood, such as fish oil, as well as algae oil. Your body needs it to create signalling molecules (which help your cells communicate). 

  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid): This form of omega 3 is found in algae, fish and other sources. It's especially important for the cells in your eyes and brain (approximately 40% of your brain's polyunsaturated fats are made up of DHA).

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid): You'll find this form of omega 3 in plant-based foods like nuts and flax, and your body can convert it into EPA and DHA.

Omega 3 benefits 

Since omega 3s are so key for your cellular health, the physical perks and brain health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are quite comprehensive. 

Benefits of omega 3 on the brain 

Your brain's grey matter is closely linked with your overall cognitive abilities. Researchers believe that grey matter is important for functions like: 

  • Muscle control 

  • Seeing, hearing and other senses 

  • Memory and learning 

  • Emotions and emotional regulation

  • Speech 

  • Advanced thinking, including self-control and the ability to make quick decisions

Your brain needs fats for energy. It's actually the most fat-dense organ in your body, and omega 3s (specifically DHA) are the predominant form of fat in your grey matter. 

Put simply, you need DHAs for optimal emotional health, cognition, memory, learning and all the other areas highlighted above where you need your grey matter's neurons firing at full speed.

And it's never too early to start. omega 3 fatty acids have even been shown to improve brain health before children are born. 

For instance, children whose mothers took omega 3 supplements or ate a lot of omega 3s when they were pregnant are more likely to have higher intelligence (as measured by IQ tests and problem-solving tests) and are at a lower risk of having behavioural and neurological problems.

Benefits of omega 3 on the body 

While many people take omega 3 supplements for brain health, these healthy fats also offer numerous benefits for your general health, wellness, and vitality.

Symptoms of low omega 3

Technically, many people aren't truly low in omega 3s. That's because most organizations and government agencies recommend a minimum of only 250 to 500 mg of omega 3 fatty acids per day.

However, many people have insufficient levels of omega 3s. This specific terminology is key for one reason: It's all about maintaining the right balance between your omega 3 intake and your omega 6 intake.

Omega 6 essential fats are another form of polyunsaturated fat that your body needs. 

Research suggests that our ratio between omega 6 intake and omega 3 intake should hover around 1:1 (e.g., our diet should consist of equal amounts of omega 6 fats and omega 3 fats).

Unfortunately, due to a Western diet that's heavy on grains, oils and processed foods, our consumption of omega 6 fats has gone up by nearly 300% in the past few decades and is now at an all-time high. In fact, some studies estimate that most people have an omega-6 to omega 3 ratio of 17:1.

Put simply, we need more omega 3 fats in our diet for optimal brain health and disease prevention.

Signs of low omega 3

The only true way to ascertain your omega 3 levels is through a blood test. However, signs of an omega 3 deficiency or insufficiency may include:

  • Irritated skin and/or dry skin

  • Dry eyes or vision problems

  • Difficulty sleeping and/or poor sleep quality

  • Difficulty focusing on tasks or projects, or experiencing muddled thinking

Food sources of omega 3s 

The following foods can help boost your intake of omega 3 essential fats:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines and herring 

  • Shellfish, such as crab and oysters

  • Seeds like chia seeds and flax seeds (note: these are sources of ALA, which your body then converts into EPA and DHA)

Ways to supplement omega 3s 

If you want to improve your omega 3 levels, you can take DHA and EPA supplements. These often come in the form of:

  • Fish oil (both natural fish oil, as well as processed fish oil)

  • Krill oil

  • Oil from shellfish, such as mussels

  • Mammalian oil (a technical term referring to EPA extracted from seal blubber)

  • Algae oil

Algae oil is actually the "original" form of DHAs and EPAs. Marine algae is very rich in omega 3 fatty acids, and fish are high in EPAs and DHAs simply because they eat a lot of algae.

What other vitamins and minerals should I take with omega 3? 

There is limited to no evidence showing that taking other supplements can increase or decrease the bioavailability of omega 3s (i.e., how well your body can absorb the essential fats). 

Commonly asked questions on omega 3 supplements 

1. Is fish oil the best source of omega 3s?

Despite their popularity, no: Fish oil is not the best source of omega 3s. 

In fact, fish get their high omega 3 levels from eating marine algae. Taking a supplement made with algae oil provides you with the original, pure form of EPAs and DHAs as nature intended. Plus, it avoids some aspects of fish oil that some people may find problematic:

  • Fish oil may be high in heavy metals, such as mercury, that's commonly found in big fish

  • Fish oil may not be suitable for some diets, such as a vegetarian or a vegan diet

  • Fish oil may contribute to environmental concerns, such as bycatch problems and overfishing

  • Fish oil can go rancid quickly, especially if the supplements are not packaged properly or are exposed to light and air

2. What happens if you take more omega 3s than you need?

Your body treats omega 3s like any other fat that you eat. There is currently no research showing a risk of "overdosing" on omega 3 supplements.

3. Who should take an omega 3 supplement?

Some specific demographics may be more at risk of having very low levels of omega 3s, such as those who avoid all seafood and shellfish. However, everyone can benefit from increasing their omega 3 intake, especially when it comes to optimal brain health and physical wellness.