Do I need Omega-3 supplement?

Do I need Omega-3 supplement?

This is my personal experience I am sharing. Being a dietician I am always keen on keeping my diet well balanced, regularly taking supplements which are necessary considering age, heredity and other factors. But somehow I missed on omega-3. I thought that including variety of oils in my diet ensured that I got enough omega-3 and I do not need to take supplement for it. When I did my Sports Nutrition Specialist Course I once again read the importance of Omega-3 a healthy fat. I started on this supplement along with my daily multi-vitamin and calcium. Within a month I observed these changes –

  • Less muscle soreness post exercise compared to earlier.
  • More energy to exercise and to go on throughout the day.
  • More Strength and Stamina – My muscle strength increased, I could also exercise longer
  • Quick recovery after injury – I had strained my patellar tendon-below knee, while doing lunges, but recovered in 4 days without any medication
  • Increased BMR – I increased my diet but did not gain weight.
  • Reduced inflammation – The swellings, aches and pains had reduced considerably


So What is Omega-3 and why is it important?

They are the essential fatty acids as they cannot be made by the body, so you have to derive them from food you eat, they are the sub catagory of polyunsaturated fats. Essential fatty acids are grouped into two series –

  • the omega-3 series, derived from alphalinolenic acid (ALA)
  • the omega-6 series, derived from linoleic acid (LA)

The Omega- 3 acids is further devided into EPA (long chain fatty acids) and DHA (short chain fatty acids). They are found in oily fish and can be formed in body from omega-3. They are then converted into hormone- like substances which control functions, like reducing blood clotting, reducing inflammation, and increasing immune system.

Benefits of high omega-3 diet

  1. Lowers risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke
    • Lowers LDL  and Increases HDL 
    • Reduces triglycerides
    • Help control high blood pressure
    • Improves insulin resistance, thus help maintain blood sugar levels
    • Slows down the development of plague in arteries
    • Helps in reducing central obesity
  2. Reduce Inflammation
    • Help fight several autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.
    • May decrease the risk of some type of cancers like, colon, prostate and breast cancer
  3. Improves brain function
    • Improve symptoms of mental disorders by reducing the frequency of mood swings and relapses in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and decrease incidences of violent behaviour.
    • Help in treatment of depression and anxiety
    • Decrease age related mental decline and reduce risk of Alzheimer’s (more studies are needed)
    • Reduce symptoms of ADHD in children by reducing hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness and aggression and improving attention and task completion
  4. Benefits during pregnancy
    • Higher intelligence
    • Better communication and social skills
    • Fewer behavioral problems
    • Decreased risk of developmental delay
    • Decreased risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy
  5. Improved Athletic Performance
    • Improved delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells
    • Improved aerobic metabolism
    • Increased energy levels and staina
    • Increased exercise duration and intensity
    • Improved recovery and promote anabolic environment (building muscles)
    • Anti-inflamatory properties prevent joint, tendon, ligament strains
    • Reduction of inflamation caused by over training, promoting injury healing
  6. Help prevent macular degeneration, which can cause vision impairment and blindness.
  7. Strengthens bones and joints, thus reducing risk of osteoporosis and arthritis
  8. Reduce menstrual pain.


They are linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and docosapentanoic acid (DPA). They are important for healthy functioning of cell membranes. People who follow very low fat diets develop extremely dry, falky skin. They lower LDL cholesterol but a high intake may also lower HDL, and increase free radical damage which may increase risk of cancer. It is very easy to meet the requirements of omega-6 as they are found in abundant in more commonly eaten foods like vegetable oils, cakes, biscuits, spreads, fried chips and other fried food items made from polyunsaturated oils and margarines.

Food Sources

  • Oily Fish – Mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna and sardines
  • Plant sources – Flax seeds, flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, rapeseed oil and soybeans

The right balance between omega-3s and omega-6s is very cruicial for meet the requirement of EPA and DHA, aiming for ratio of 5:1 or lower – atleast 1 g of omega -3 for every 5 g of omega-6. A high intake of LA interferes with the conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA. Minimum of 450-900 mg of DHA and EPA is recommended for good health. At least 2 servings of oily fish is in a week is recommended to meet the required amount o EPA and DHA. People following vegetarian or vegan diet may find difficult to meet the recommended amount of omega-3. Omega-3 supplements can fulfill this requirement. To get 900 mga day, you will need to eat one of the following :

  • 32 g mackerel
  • 45 g tuna in oil
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) flaxseeds or 1 tbsp flaxseed oil
  • 40 g (4 tbsp) pumpkin seeds
  • 12-15 g walnuts

2 thoughts on “Do I need Omega-3 supplement?

  1. Very nicely explained…i am always confused about taking suppliments for protains and vitamines…but now i come to know how much it is essential….thank you sooo much for your most valuable info…

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