Evidence of the heart-protective effect of omega-3s is growing, with strong data showing it can significantly reduce the risk of a second cardiovascular event in people who’ve had a heart attack. Omega-3s have also been shown to lower triglycerides (a type of fat or lipid found in your blood): too many of those increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Essential fatty acids concentrating in the brain can have an important role in cognitive memory and performance. Some studies have shown omega-3s can benefit the developing brain and so may be beneficial for children to take.
A Cochrane* review of studies looking at the effect of omega-3s in people with rheumatoid arthritis found it improved joint mobility, which may mean sufferers need to use fewer arthritis medications, under their doctor’s guidance.
Clinical trials have found it can help with depression, however it can take months to incorporate these good fats in the body’s stores, so it’s not a quick fix.
Omega-3s are safe for most people to take but pregnant women and those on blood-thinning medications should avoid omega-3s.
Your body can’t make omega-3s so you need to get them from other sources, such as food or supplements. Plant sources include walnuts and flax seeds but omega-3s are also found in the oil from fatty fish, like salmon and kahawai, and canned mackerel and sardines.
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for cell structure and functioning, help to produce hormones to regulate blood and artery health and are important in controlling your genes.
Pharmacist Stuart McDonald from Unichem Faulkners Pharmacy, Tauranga, advises: Eating enough of the right foods to get therapeutic doses of omega-3s can be tricky. The recommended dosage would be 800-1500mg per day. Fattier fish like salmon and kawahai have about 1000mg of omega-3 per 100g serving, so you would have to be consuming quite a lot of fish on a regular basis. With supplements, it pays to research where the product has been sourced. The higher quality products use oil obtained from fish from deeper waters, meaning they’re less likely to contain toxins or impurities.
*Cochrane reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care.