Omega-3 Dosage: How much EPA and DHA should I take?
- Unlike most vitamins and nutrients, a set standard or general consensus about how much omega-3s a person should consume every day has not been established
- A number of factors contribute to an individual’s omega-3 status, making it difficult to estimate the amount of EPA+DHA needed for optimal cellular health
- Omega-3 blood testing is the most efficient way to measure your omega-3 blood levels and determine your personal dietary requirements
- Research has historically tended to use smaller doses of EPA and DHA, despite evidence that higher doses are safe, well-tolerated, and better able to increase omega-3 levels
Making an omega-3 dosage recommendation can be complicated
A significant body of research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA provide important benefits for heart, brain, immune, and cellular health.1,2 Upon learning of these benefits, one of the first things people want to know is, how much EPA and DHA should they take to meet their daily needs? While this may seem like a simple question, because a number of factors contribute to an individual’s omega-3 status, the answer can actually be quite complicated.
Why take omega-3s?
The average human body is composed of approximately 37 trillion cells and virtually all of them depend on EPA and DHA for maintaining foundational daily cellular activities.3,4 Importantly, because organs are made up of cells, obtaining sufficient omega-3s means that organs will also have the potential to function more optimally. And because normal organ functioning is associated with greater general health, adequate omega-3s can help optimize overall health.
Although humans are able to synthesize EPA and DHA from alpha-linoleic acid (ALA)—a fatty acid precursor found in flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil—because ALA’s conversion into EPA and DHA is very low, it is generally recommended that EPA and DHA be consumed directly through dietary sources including cold-water fatty fish and/or fish oil supplements.5,6
Larger doses of EPA and DHA are safe and potentially more effective
In spite of the body’s significant need for EPA and DHA, most clinical trials have historically tended to err on the side of caution by using smaller doses ranging between 250 mg per day to 1000 mg per day. However, accumulating evidence demonstrates that larger doses are safe and potentially more effective for optimizing health.7–9 Moreover, smaller doses are less likely to provide sufficient support for all people, given that differences in diet and metabolism mean some individuals require much greater amounts of EPA and DHA than others.10
Omega-3 requirements vary from person to person
As discussed, many variables (age, sex, diet, health status, exposure to toxins, etc.) factor into the amount of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids an individual’s body requires for maintaining normal cellular and metabolic activities.11,12 In light of this variability, Nordic Naturals believes that EPA+DHA recommendations should be based on individual omega-3 needs and requirements whenever possible.
Omega-3 blood testing: Important numbers to know
The fastest and most efficient way to determine your omega-3 requirements is by taking a blood test to evaluate your omega-3 index and working with your doctor to determine a dosing regimen that best suits your needs. As a point of reference, in studies with Americans not taking omega-3 supplements, the average omega-3 index values ranged from 4 to 5% (i.e., well below cardioprotective levels). Given that experts typically recommend targeting an omega-3 index between 8% and 12%, these results suggest that the average American would benefit from increasing their omega-3 index through supplementation.13,14
But this begs a similar question—how much EPA and DHA does a person need to take to increase their omega-3 index? Although this can only be definitively answered through testing, supplementing, and retesting, studies indicate a dose-dependent relationship between omega-3 supplementation and the omega-3 index.10,15 In other words: the higher the dose of supplemental EPA+DHA, the greater the increase in omega-3 index.
Safety concerns: Is there such a thing as too much omega-3s?
Another frequently asked question concerning omega-3 dosage is the maximum amount of omega-3s a person can safely consume. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), doses as high as 5000 mg a day are generally well-tolerated and do not increase the risks of adverse health complications, such as prolonged bleeding or cardiovascular disease (CVD).16
Omega-3 intake recommendations
All individuals, regardless of age or health status, are encouraged to undergo blood testing and work with a physician who can make personalized recommendations based on their unique dietary needs. However, in the absence of testing, the nutrition and scientific experts at Nordic Naturals have provided daily recommendations based on life stage and general health status.
- Healthy Infants and Toddlers (ages 0-4): 500 to 800 mg EPA+DHA per day
- Healthy Children (ages 4-12): 2000 mg EPA+DHA per day
- Healthy Adolescents (ages 13-18): 2000-3000 mg EPA+DHA per day
- Healthy Adults (ages 18+): 3000-4000 mg EPA+DHA per day
In summary, a number of factors contribute to an individual’s omega-3 status, and the amount of EPA and DHA they require for optimal cellular health. Although the only conclusive way to ensure you are meeting your daily needs is through blood testing, supplementing with 3000 to 4000 grams of EPA+DHA daily should provide sufficient support for most healthy adults.