Omega-3 Fat: How Much is Enough?

21 Sep 2018

“How much omega-3 fat supplement should I be taking daily?” Frankly, it is not a simple question to answer. The reason for this is that our body needs a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fat intake.

Several recent studies validate this point. A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated no benefit from taking just one gram of fish oil per day. Yet, a brand new study released a couple weeks ago showed that six grams of fish oil daily achieved the goal of the study.

What is telling about all of the recently published information is that only studies that consume a much higher quantity of omega-3 oil than we consume daily in our diet do we see any clinical benefit. My practice in Gastroenterology has demonstrated this fact as well. I have now tested about 2500 individuals with the “Omega Check” and have found less than ten individuals who were consuming enough omega-3 supplements and most everyone ingests too much omega-6 fats.

As I pointed out in my article about the “Omega Check,” we can change our diet to rebalance our omega levels. Usually it requires us to decrease our vegetable oils, nuts and processed foods while increasing our fish, flax or krill oil intake. After a few months of dietary correction, we can remeasure our omega levels to see if the correction has brought them back into balance.

One of the frustrating messages that I hear daily from my patients is that they just read that there is no benefit in taking omega-3 oil. Yet, the data are overwhelming that omega-3 fats are essential for nutritional health. The problem is that we are not given any guidance on the food label about quantities of omega-3 or omega-6 fats.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture website gives guidance on most nutrients in what is known as the recommended daily allowance or RDA. The most recent RDA for omega-6 fat is 11 to 17 grams per day. Their guidance for omega-3 fat intake is 1.2 to 1.4 grams per day. I am not sure how these numbers were derived because our body requires about 1.5 to 2 times as much omega-3 fats compared with omega-6 fat to get our bodies into balance.

Based on the “Omega Check” values in your body you would need to consume 22 to 34 grams of fish oil per day to balance 11 to 17 grams of omega-6 fat in your diet. It is far easier to dramatically reduce your omega-6 intake rather than consuming 40 to 60 capsules of fish oil per day (20-30 grams) in order to balance your omega levels. The present ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fat in our diet is about 18:1. That ratio should be about 1:2.

How do you bring down your omega 6 to omega-3 ratio so that you do not have to consume so much omega-3 supplement? The best way is to reduce your primary sources of omega-6 fat intake. This means that you need to reduce nuts, vegetable oils, deep fried foods and processed foods (see previous articles).

The other thing is to get your blood tested a couple times per year to see if your omega levels are balanced and adjust your diet and omega-3 supplementation accordingly. I hope this is helpful. Get balanced.
Dr. Lyons