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Omega-3 fatty acid supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in food such as oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. Supplements of omega-3 fatty acids typically are based on fish oil. Health claims associated with the supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids include; supports heart health and improves symptoms of depression. So, does omega-3 fatty acid supplementation really work?

Omega-3 supplementation and heart health

Research has identified that if you are healthy and have low/average risk for heart disease, the likelihood that you require an omega-3 supplement is low, especially if you eat fish often. You should aim to eat oily fish (e.g. salmon or tuna) two times per week to get the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids from food are always preferable to a supplement, as it has the added benefits of potentially lowering your intake of less healthful foods such as processed meats etc.

If you do not consume fish, an omega 3 supplement is an option you could consider. It is important to note that most supplements are tarnished and contain only a small amount of essential fatty acids. The good quality supplements are expensive, and from a price point perspective it is cheaper to get omega-3 fatty acids from food. It is important to remember a dietary supplement is not a substitute.  In terms of heart health, healthy lifestyle practices which include; regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and not smoking are still the main recommendation for improving heart health.

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Omega-3 supplementation and depression

Currently there is not enough high-quality evidence to determine whether omega-3 fatty acids can act as a treatment for depression. Small positive effects were seen with people who consumed omega-3 fatty acids compared with those who did not, but the size of the effect is not meaningful and more high-quality research needs to be completed.

Last modified: 
12/05/20