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Omega 3 supplements can be beneficial for general health

Omega 3 fatty acid supplements, like fish oil pills, are very popular among people to improve their general health and wellness. Omega three fatty acids or alpha linoleic acid, which is converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexanaenoic acid (DHA) during beta oxidation are a type of fatty acid that the body cannot produce, are essential to maintain health and homeostasis (Glick & Fischer, 2013). Before a person decides if omega three supplementation they should understand what omega three fatty acids do in the body, their possible health benefits, if they consume enough food sources of omega threes, and why they should only use a high quality supplement.

The primary food source of omega three fatty acids is oily fish like salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel. An adequate consumption of omega three fatty acids has been shown to be vital in human health as they are a component in cell membranes and can modify gene and protein expression, modulate membrane protein activity and act as a reservoir for bioactive molecules (Surette, 2008). A deficiency of omega three’s is associated with several health problems.

Consumption of omega threes though supplementation or diet has shown to prevent or help treat various diseases and disorders including psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, depression, ADHD, and more (Glick & Fischer, 2013). Fish oil reduces cardiovascular disease risk by reducing intracellular lipolysis, which reduces circulating free fatty acids, and increasing beta oxidation, decreasing fatty acid delivery to the liver. DHA is especially important in maintaining mental health as it easily crosses the blood brain barrier and plays a vital role in neuron size, neurogenesis, neurite growth, synapse formation and function, neuronal integrity, gene expression in the brain, glucose transport, cognitive development, and learning ability (Glick & Fischer, 2013). Omega threes can also potentially aid in muscle protein synthesis and reduce inflammation (Rawson, Miles, & Larson-Meyer, 2018).

There is no recommended dietary allowance of omega three fatty acids but the adequate intake for adult men is 1.6 g per day and for adult women it is 1.1 g per day, which can be achieved through eating two oily fish servings per week (Bailey, 2009). However, most Americans due to a combination of disliking fish, fear of mercury and contamintants do not eat enough fish to meet the adequate intake level. Although fish oil supplements DHA and EPA are not as effectively incorporated into the plasma lipids as actual fish, they are an acceptable substitute for those who dislike fish (Bailey, 2009).

Not all supplements are created equal. Some fish oil supplements contain only DHA or EPA which have different health effects (Bailey, 2009). Since the supplements are not absorbed as easily, slightly higher dosages than the amount consumed through food is necessary and consultation with a physician or dietician may be recommended. For example to treat high triglycerides, 2–4 g may be needed (Bailey, 2009). People should only use higher quality supplements with alpha linoleic acid, DHA, and EPA.

References

Bailey, N. (2009). Current choices in omega 3 supplementation. Nutrition Bulletin, 34(1), 85-91.

Glick, N. R., & Fischer, M. H. (2013). The role of essential fatty acids in human health. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 18(4), 268-289.

Rawson, E. S., Miles, M. P., & Larson-Meyer, D. E. (2018). Dietary supplements for health, adaptation, and recovery in athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism,28(2), 188-199.

Surette, M. E. (2008). The science behind dietary omega-3 fatty acids. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 178(2), 177-180.