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How much omega-3 per day should someone get?

Medically reviewed on May 17, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Table of contents


Omega-3s are one of the many nutrients necessary for a healthy body.

But how much omega-3s per day should you consume? Whether you’re exploring nutrition for the first time or you’re a long-time omega-3 devotee, brushing up on recommended daily values is never a bad idea. This article will help guide dietary and supplementation to help ensure optimal omega-3 intake, but be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to learn what they recommend for you specifically. (For easy omega-3 supplementation, try Everlywell's new Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement.)

Understanding omega-3 fatty acids

Before we jump into intake recommendations, let’s explore each of the three essential fatty acids in the omega-3 group [1]:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – ALA is mainly found in canola and flaxseed oils. ALA is an essential nutrient—the human body doesn’t make it. So this fatty acid must be introduced to the body via drinks, food, or supplements.
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – Fish and other seafood are commonly high in EPA. The body can only convert ALA into EPA in small amounts, so dietary choices are critical for keeping optimal EPA levels.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – DHA is commonly found in seafood products. The body can make EPA from omega-3 ALA, and then DHA from EPA. However, since this process only makes a small volume, you should seek DHA from nutritional sources.

What is omega-3 good for? Each essential fatty acid in the omega-3 group performs critical cellular functions in the body, including [2]:

  • Regulating water retention
  • Acting as a substrate for cell receptors
  • Facilitating hormone production that impacts
  • DNA and RNA production
  • Arterial contraction and relaxation
  • Blood clotting mechanisms

Expert recommendations for omega-3 intake

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not provide recommendations for omega-3 intake at large, they’ve published daily values for the omega-3 ALA specifically [1]. The dosages differ based on age and other health factors, but the maximum recommendation is the same for everyone.

Let’s explore these expert recommendations in more detail.

Age

The FDA offers the following age-related guidance for daily ALA intake [1]:

  • 0.5 g for children less than 12 months old
  • 0.7 g for children between 1 and 3 years old
  • 0.9 g for children between 4 and 8 years old
  • 1.2 g for males between 9 and 13 years old
  • 1.0 g for females between 9 and 13 years old
  • 1.6 g for males 14 years and older
  • 1.1 g for females 14 years and older

Infants are an interesting outlier in the FDA recommendations—this age group is the only one whose suggested intake reflects all omega-3 fatty acids, not ALA alone.

Why?

When the FDA originally established an Adequate Intake (AI) level for omega-3s, insufficient data was available to determine how much ALA alone would lead to positive health outcomes for infants. But since all three omega-3 fatty acids are bioavailable in breast milk, the FDA recommendation reflects the average daily omega-3 consumption of healthy, breastfed infants.

Other health conditions

The FDA offers two more recommendations for daily ALA intake [1]:

  • Pregnant people should consume 1.4 g per day
  • Breastfeeding people should consume 1.3 g per day

Recent studies show that adequate omega-3 intake could slightly increase infant birth weight and slightly prolong the gestation period [3]. While current evidence doesn’t suggest that omega-3 supplementation can prevent low birth weights or premature birth, even slight positive changes in fetal health can lead to better infant health outcomes.

While the FDA does not make any other recommendations, your healthcare provider may suggest omega-3 supplementation to support other possible health outcomes, like:

  • Improved brain function in aging people – Studies show that optimal omega-3 levels have been associated with increased brain mass, improved cognitive function, decreased dementia progression, and maintenance of complex brain functions in adults [4].
  • Skin wound healing – Scientists have identified a possible link between wound healing and omega-3 supplementation [5].
  • Fertility support – Multiple studies show possible correlations between omega-3 intake and sperm and egg cell performance, potentially leading to improved fertility outcomes [6, 7].
  • Heart health – Recent studies suggest that supplementation with EPA and DHA could reduce or prevent cardiovascular issues like heart attacks, strokes, and/or plaque buildup [8].

While omega-3 research is still ongoing, current data suggests that the fatty acid group could provide health benefits for the above purposes and more.

Minimum and maximum dosages

While omega-3 deficiency is very uncommon in the US, possible side effects are itchy skin, rashes, and red skin [1].

While the FDA recommends consuming no more than 5 grams of omega-3s per day, the side effects of overdose can be relatively mild. They include:

  • Nausea
  • Bad breath
  • Increased body odor
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea

Get omega-3s the easy way with Everlywell

Fish oil supplements can make it easy to get the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids, and with Everlywell's Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements you can help nurture heart, brain, and skin health. Each bottle contains a 30-day supply of omega-3 fish oil softgels, and with a monthly subscription you can save 10%.

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References

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. National Institutes of Health. URL. Accessed May 17, 2022.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. Harvard University School of Public Health. URL. Accessed May 17, 2022.

3. Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. URL. Accessed May 17, 2022.

4. von Schacky C. Importance of EPA and DHA Blood Levels in Brain Structure and Function. Nutrients. 2021;13(4):1074. Published 2021 Mar 25.

5. Huang TH, Wang PW, Yang SC, Chou WL, Fang JY. Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil's Fatty Acids on the Skin. Mar Drugs. 2018;16(8):256. Published 2018 Jul 30.

6. Salas-Huetos A, Rosique-Esteban N, Becerra-Tomás N, Vizmanos B, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. The Effect of Nutrients and Dietary Supplements on Sperm Quality Parameters: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Adv Nutr. 2018;9(6):833-848.

7. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Fecundability. Journal of Fertility and Sterility. URL. Accessed May 17, 2022.

8. Khan SU, Lone AN, Khan MS, Virani SS, Blumenthal RS, Nasir K, Miller M, Michos ED, Ballantyne CM, Boden WE, Bhatt DL. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. EClinicalMedicine. 2021 Jul 8;38:100997.

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