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How Much Omega 3 Per Day Is Safe?

Written by Angie Arriesgado
Reviewed by Lamia A Kader, MD
delicious fried salmon rich in omega 3

The mouthwatering dish you’re looking at right now is no ordinary fish… it’s salmon and it’s one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. It’s so rich, in fact, that a single 3oz serving can contain at least 1,000mg of omega-3! But how much omega 3 per day is actually safe? And if you’re taking fish oil supplements instead of eating fatty fish like salmon, what’s a safe dose?

You know, a simple Google search for this question will lead to a WIDE variety of answers. Some will tell you a few hundred milligrams of omega-3 per day is fine, while others say a few thousand is a more realistic number. The answers are literally all over the place! But let’s find out what the right answer is, shall we? By the end of this article, you’ll have a definitive answer to this complicated question!  

What do health authorities say about omega-3 daily intake?

Unfortunately, there’s no set standard or guidelines on how much omega-3 is safe for daily intake. It’s quite surprising, honestly, when you consider the fact that omega-3 is considered an essential fatty acid, and hundreds of studies have been done on this nutrient. But alas, there’s no unified answer regarding this matter.

Here, let me give you an example of some dosage recommendations from various agencies:

  • US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – they recommend 500mg of DHA+EPA to prevent omega-3 deficiency
  • American Heart Association – they recommend 2,000-4,000mg of DHA+EPA to lower triglycerides
  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – they recommend 250mg of omega-3 from seafoods to lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  • US FDA – they require supplement labels to recommend no more than 2000mg daily total of DHA+EPA

Confusing, right?

More questions are probably coming to your mind right now… like what’s DHA and EPA, anyway? And which advice should you follow? Also, is it possible to have too much of this fatty acid?

We’ll answer all these extra questions later, but for now let’s address the first one…

how much omega 3 per day is safe to eat

What’s DHA and EPA?

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are the two most important forms of omega-3. Both of these fatty acids play key roles in maintaining activities in our cell membranes. It’s important, yes, but it’s absolutely mind-blowing when you consider the fact that there are more than 30 trillion cells in the human body – with each one virtually dependent on DHA and EPA!  

DHA is found in our brains, eye cells, and our skin (1), so sufficient DHA levels is essential for these organs to function properly. EPA, on the other hand, fights inflammation and helps promote a healthy cardiovascular system (2).

That being said, we’re barely scratching the surface here of what these two fatty acids – and omega-3 as a whole – can do!

And the very best sources of DHA and EPA are…

Omega-3 is found in both plant and animal sources. But hands down, the richest source of DHA and EPA are fatty fish and shellfish (3). These include seafood like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring, anchovy, cod liver oil, and oyster.

But what if you hate fish and all sea creatures?

Fortunately, eating fish isn’t the only way to get your daily supply of DHA and EPA. Thankfully, fish oil dietary supplements exist. But take note – not all fish oil supplements are the same!

Some supplements contain very little DHA and EPA. Others source their omega-3 from ethyl ester which is semi-artificially created in a lab. Still others use outdated purification techniques which makes the fish oil go rancid fast (you’ll know it when it changes color and it starts smelling like fish)!

Here’s why our Ultra Pure Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplement is the best:

bottle of intelligent labs ultra pure omega-3 fish oil supplement

  • Each serving (3 soft gels per day) contains 2,250mg of omega-3 fatty acids. We follow the most effective EPA:DHA ratio of 3:2 (or 60/40). This means each serving contains 1224mg EPA, 816mg DHA, and 210mg of other omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Our omega-3 is in natural triglyceride form, not the low-quality ethyl ester form used by most manufacturers.
  • Our fish oil is sourced from a certified “Friends of the Sea” supplier and molecularly distilled in a GMP and FDA-registered facility to remove all contaminants. Each batch is also third-party tested for complete purity. You’ll receive your fish oil in perfect condition!

So, now that you know what the best sources of omega-3 are, let’s proceed to the proper daily dosages!

So, how much omega 3 per day (DHA and EPA) is safe?

The benefits of omega-3 is beyond plentiful – there’s a long list of all the good things it can do for your mind, body and overall health. That said, the right dosage for omega-3 will depend on the medical condition you’re looking to treat or prevent. Now, as you can imagine, there are a lot of different dosage possibilities since proper dosages will vary based on your personal condition.  

Important Note: The suggested doses below are based on scientific studies (the referenced study is enclosed in parenthesis in the second column). For optimal results, please seek personalised dosage advice from your primary care physician.

Health Condition To Treat or PreventEPA and DHA Omega-3 Recommended Daily Dosage (with Scientific Source)Intelligent Labs’ Fish Oil Supplement Recommended Dosage
Reduce inflammation associated with autoimmune conditions like arthritis and Crohn’s diseaseAt least 2,700mg DHA+EPA (4)3 capsules daily
Reduce triglycerides2,000-4,000mg DHA+EPA (5)3 capsules daily
Improve cholesterol levels2,300mg-4,000mg DHA+EPA in 3:2 ratio (6)3 capsules daily
Blood pressure reductionAt least 3,000mg DHA+EPA (7)3 capsules daily
Heart attack riskAt least 1,000mg DHA+EPA (8)3 capsules daily
Improve cognitive functionAt least 1,000mg of DHA (9)3-4 capsules daily
Exercise and sports training recoveryAt least 1,800mg DHA+EPA (10)3 capsules daily
Increase muscle massAt least 3,860mg DHA+EPA (11)4 capsules daily
Healthy pregnancyAt least 2,500mg DHA+EPA (12)3 capsules daily
Treat depression (adult)1,000mg-6,600mg DHA+EPA in 3:2 ratio (13)3 capsules daily
Treat depression (child of 6-12 yrs)600mg DHA+EPA (14)1 capsule daily
Manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)20-25mg/kg of EPA and 8.5-10.5mg/kg of DHA (15)1-3 capsules daily (depends on weight)
Treat anxiety3,000mg DHA+EPA (16)4 capsules daily
Reduce risk of macular degeneration1,100mg-5,000mg DHA+EPA (17, 18)3-4 capsules daily
Treat dry eye750mg-1,000mg DHA+EPA (19)3 capsules daily

Is it possible to “overdose” on omega-3? What are some side effects?

Many studies have been done on omega-3. And the evidence points to the fact that even at higher doses, the body tolerates the extra fatty acids well. As you’ve seen in the table above, most of the recommended doses go way beyond the quantities suggested by various government agencies. These aren’t random numbers either – these are science-backed recommendations, too.  

Now, here’s the thing – omega-3 is found in nature. In cultures where the diet consists mainly of fish and seafood, it’s normal for them to consume more than a few grams of omega-3. It’s even said that some Arctic tribes consume around 20,000mg of omega-3 daily and remain healthy as a fox. Of course, this is just anecdotal, but generally, omega-3 is safe even in large doses.

That being said, if your diet isn’t exactly abundant in omega-3, you may find a few uncomfortable side effects, such as nausea or diarrhea. Also, fish oil is a natural anticoagulant, so high doses may thin the blood. Keep this mind if you’re thinking of getting surgery – or even a tattoo!

tuna is another rich source of omega 3 fatty acids

Conclusion

As you’ve learned in this article, there’s no straightforward answer as to how much omega 3 per day is acceptable. The recommended dosages will vary from one person to the next, and whether or not you’re looking to treat or prevent a particular medical condition. However, research also shows that going beyond the recommended dosage has generally little to no side effects. To conclude, the benefits of consuming relatively large amounts of omega-3 – whether it be through diet or supplementation – far outweigh any risks.

What about you? What’s your main source of omega-3? Do you eat a diet rich in seafood or do you prefer fish oil supplements? Let us know in the comments below!

References:

  1. Ricciotti E, FitzGerald GA. Prostaglandins and inflammation. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2011; 31(5): 986-1000.
  2. Innis SM. Dietary omega 3 fatty acids and the developing brain. Brain Res. 2008; 1237: 35-43.
  3. Raeder MB, Steen VM, Vollset SE, Bjelland I. Associations between cod liver oil use and symptoms of depression: the Hordaland Health Study. J Affect Disord. 2007; 101(1-3): 245-9.
  4. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements in women at high risk of breast cancer have dose-dependent effects on breast adipose tissue fatty acid composition,Yee LD, Lester JL, Cole RM, Richardson JR, Hsu JC, Li Y, Lehman A, Belury MA, and Clinton SK, Am J Clin Nutr 91: 1185-1194 (2010).
  5. n-3 fatty acids and serum lipoproteins: human studies. Harris WS, Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 May;65(5 Suppl):1645S-1654S.
  6. Purified eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids have differential effects on serum lipids and lipoproteins, LDL particle size, glucose, and insulin in mildly hyperlipidemic men. Mori TA, Burke V, Puddey IB, Watts GF, O’Neal DN, Best JD, Beilin LJ. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5):1085-94.
  7. Does Supplementation of Diet With ‘Fish Oil’ Reduce Blood Pressure? A Meta-analysis of Controlled Clinical Trials, Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH; Edgar R. Miller III, MD, PhD; Alexander J. Seidler, PhD; Paul K. Whelton, MD, MSc,Arch Intern Med. 1993;153(12):1429-1438.
  8. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of fish oil and mustard oil in patients with suspected acute myocardial infarction: the Indian experiment of infarct survival—4, Singh RB1, Niaz MA, Sharma JP, Kumar R, Rastogi V, Moshiri M, Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1997 Jul;11(3):485-91.
  9. DHA-rich oil modulates the cerebral haemodynamic response to cognitive tasks in healthy young adults: a near IR spectroscopy pilot study, Jackson PA, Reay JL, Scholey AB, Kennedy DO, Br J Nutr. 2012 Apr;107(8):1093-8.
  10. The effects of ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids on perceived pain and external symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness in untrained men, Tartibian B1, Maleki BH, Abbasi A, Clin J Sport Med. 2009 Mar;19(2):115-9.
  11. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial1,2,3, Gordon I Smith, Philip Atherton, Dominic N Reeds, B Selma Mohammed, Debbie Rankin, Michael J Rennie, and Bettina Mittendorfer, Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb; 93(2): 402–412.
  12. Maternal Supplementation With Very-Long-Chain n-3 Fatty Acids During Pregnancy and Lactation Augments Children’s IQ at 4 Years of Age, Ingrid B. Helland, Lars Smith, Kristin Saarem, Ola D. Saugstad, Christian A. Drevon, Pediatrics, January 2003, VOLUME 111 / ISSUE 1.
  13. Meta-analysis and meta-regression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorder, R J T Mocking, I Harmsen, J Assies, M W J Koeter, H G Ruhé, and A H Schene, Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Mar; 6(3): e756.
  14. Omega-3 Treatment of Childhood Depression: A Controlled, Double-Blind Pilot Study, Hanah Nemets Boris Nemets Alan Apter Ziva Bracha R.H. Belmaker, The American Journal Of Psychiatry June 2006 Volume 163 Number 6.
  15. Effect of Supplementation with Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Micronutrients on Learning and Behavior Problems Associated with Child ADHD, Natalie Sinn, PhD, Janet Bryan, PhD, J Dev Behav Pediatr 28:82–91, 2007.
  16. Associations between increases in plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids following supplementation and decreases in anger and anxiety in substance abusers,Buydens-Branchey, L., Branchey, M., & Hibbeln, J. (2008), Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 32(2), 568-575.
  17. Oral docosahexaenoic acid in the prevention of exudative age-related macular degeneration: the Nutritional AMD Treatment 2 study, Souied EH1, Delcourt C, Querques G, Bassols A, Merle B, Zourdani A, Smith T, Benlian P; Nutritional AMD Treatment 2 Study Group, Ophthalmology. 2013 Aug;120(8):1619-31.
  18. Pilot study for treating dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with high-dose omega-3 fatty acids, Tassos Georgioua, Anastasia Neokleousa, Despina Nicolaoua, Barry Sears, PharmaNutrition, Volume 2, Issue 1, January 2014, Pages 8–11.
  19. A multicentre, double-masked, randomized, controlled trial assessing the effect of oral supplementation of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids on a conjunctival inflammatory marker in dry eye patients, Françoise Brignole-Baudouin, Christophe Baudouin, Pasquale Aragona6, Maurizio Rolando, Marc Labetoulle, Pierre Jean Pisella, Stefano Barabino, Raphaele Siou-Mermet, and Catherine Creuzot-Garcher, Acta Ophthalmologica, Volume 89, Issue 7, pages e591–e597, November 2011.