What are Omega-3 Oils?

Omega-3 oils, also called alpha-linolenic acid, cod liver oil, and fish oil, are essential fatty acids that generally are considered vital for good health. Largely found in fish, nuts, and flaxseed oil, omega-3 fats can reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiac disease. Eating two servings of fatty fish each week typically is enough for a person to receive the minimum recommended dose of omega-3.

Many health officials heavily promote omega-3 oils as part of a healthy diet. Primarily, the fatty acids help lower triglyceride levels and thwart heart disease. The anti-inflammatory properties in omega-3 generally make it a good weapon against gout as well. Omega-3 oils are also said to prevent or alleviate pain from angina, arthritis, cancer, asthma, and bipolar disease. Some reports show omega-3 helps with depression and brain function, but research is not conclusive.

Benefits of omega-3 oils were discovered in the 1970s after a study revealed that people who ate large amounts of fat from seafood had little to no cardiovascular disease. Benefits derived from the mostly-fish diet included lower blood pressure and reduced triglycerides. Since then, public awareness of the significance of omega-3 oils has surged. In 2004, the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a claim that omega-3 fatty acids support the reduction of coronary heart disease.


The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating at least two 3.5 ounce (about 99 g) servings of fatty fish each week. Items with the highest concentrations of omega-3 oils include salmon, shrimp, canned tuna, flounder, and sole. Generally, it is not recommended that a person eat shark, swordfish, or mackerel due to high mercury levels.

Although grass-fed beef is higher in omega-3 oils than coldwater fish, vegetarians do have other options available. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower contain omega-3 oils. Walnuts, tofu, and soy beans also are good food sources of the oil. Of note, English walnuts have four times as many nutrients than black walnuts do.

While a diet high in omega-3 generally is the best option for increased health benefits, there are supplements for people who may not get enough of the fatty acids through food alone. The recommended daily dose of omega-3 is between one and three grams each day. Health risks associated with large doses of omega-3 include increased bleeding for people who suffer from heart disease and reduced glycemic control in diabetics.



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