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Omega 3 Deficiency and How to Overcome It

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.

Health and Wellness

You’ve probably heard about omega-3 fatty acids and how they can benefit your health. But what happens when you have omega-3 deficiency? And what can you do to overcome this issue?

Keep reading to learn more about omega-3 fatty acids, their benefits, and signs of a deficiency. 

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that your body can’t make on its own. However, we need these fatty acids to survive, which means that we need to get them from the foods we eat or from supplements.

There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),  docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic (ALA). EPA, DPA, and DHA can be found in fish, while ALA is present in plants.

What are the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of cell membranes in your body, and as a result, they can affect cell function in different ways. These fatty acids have a lot of benefits for your health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these benefits include:

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death
  • Reduce the risk of arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythms
  • Reduce the risk of blood clots
  • Lower triglyceride levels
  • Decrease inflammation levels

Omega-3 deficiency symptoms

As we mentioned above, omega-3 fatty acids are present in the cell membrane of many different types of cells throughout your body. That means that if you’re not taking enough omega-3, it could lead to a variety of EPA, ALA, DPA, and DHA deficiency symptoms.

According to the National Institutes of Health and the Mount Sinai Health System, some of the side effects of omega-3 deficiency can include:

  • Rough, scaly skin
  • A red, swollen, itchy rash
  • Fatigue
  • Poor memory
  • Mood swings
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Heart problems
  • Dry eyes
  • Joint pain
  • Hair loss

According to a study published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease, there’s also research that suggests that low EPA, DPA, and DHA could be linked to a higher risk of psychiatric disorders. The study found that, on average, patients with mood and anxiety disorders had lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood.

What foods contain omega-3?

The good news is that you can get plenty of omega-3 from your daily diet or from high-quality supplements. According to The Association of UK Dietitians, dietary sources of ALA include nuts, seeds, and rapeseed oil.

EPA and DHA, on the other hand, are mostly found in oily fish, such as:

  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Herrings
  • Sardines
  • Swordfish

White fish and shellfish also contain omega-3 fatty acids, but at a much lower level than oily fish. Some of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may be removed during the canning process, so it’s a good idea to include fresh fish in your diet.

If you’re not getting enough omega-3 from your diet, you can try a daily supplement. However, not all omega-3 supplements are the same, and you should seek medical advice in order to choose a high-quality supplement.

What happens if you take excess omega-3?

Just like with many other micronutrients, taking excess omega-3 could have harmful effects.

According to Oregon State University, very high levels of omega-3 fatty acids could impact your immune function and affect the way your body responds to infections. However, we still don’t know the exact cut-off values for omega-3. These findings were made using concentrations that are much higher than what you would typically consume through your diet or regular supplements.

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FAQ: Omega-3

Can fish oil cause a rash?

Although it’s uncommon, some people can develop an allergic reaction to fish oil. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include a rash, hives, redness, swelling, and red bumps on your skin.

Can fish oil make you tired?

Tiredness and fatigue aren’t known side effects of fish oil.

Can you get too much omega-3?

Yes. As we mentioned above, the cut-off values for omega-3 haven’t been established. However, taking too much omega-3 could cause adverse reactions and side effects.

Does fish oil help with iron deficiency?

Evidence suggests that there is a relationship between iron metabolism and omega-3 fatty acids. However, omega-3 isn’t used to increase iron absorption at this time.

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution - hsph.harvard.edu

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - my.clevelandclinic.org

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - ods.od.nih.gov

Omega-3 fatty acids - mountsinai.org

Detection and treatment of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in psychiatric practice: Rationale and implementation - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Omega-3: Food Fact Sheet - bda.uk.com

Excess omega-3 fatty acids could lead to negative health effects - today.oregonstate.edu

Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Jul 06, 2022

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