Asked in Medication and DrugsDrug Safety
Is it possible to overdose on omega 3?
March 20, 2009 11:31AM
We all know that omega 3 fatty acids are crucial for good health, but can we suffer from an omega-3 overdose? Unfortunately, the answer will depend. For omega-3 sources that you get from plants and nuts, such as flaxseed, and walnuts, it's very hard to overdose. However, these are not the best sources for omega 3 fatty acids as there are three types of omega 3 fats: ALA, DHA and EPA. The ALA form is what you find in plant forms like flaxseed. ALA needs to be converted by the body into DHA and EPA before use. This conversion may not happen efficiently for a variety of possible reasons. Fish oils are the best source of DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids. This is where the answer to Omega-3 Overdose will vary. It will depend on the fish source being used (in supplements) or consumed. If you are taking cod liver oil, for example, which has a very high Vitamin A content, you can overdose....because Vitamin A is toxic is large amounts. Keep in mind it's the Vitamin A that is toxic here, not the omega-3 fats. However, there are species of fish that are very high in beneficial DHA and EPA with extremely low Vitamin A content, which makes overdosing practicually nil because they are not produced from the liver. Now this doesn't mean you want to overdo it by taking as much omega-3 fatty acids as you can. If you are an adult in good health, you can probably take 1 to 2 grams a day to maintain good health. This is just a general rule of thumb. If you have a specific health condition, the amount you take will vary. However, most people, being deficient in omega 3 fatty acids, should consider taking the aforementioned 1 to 2 grams of omega 3 fatty acids per day. One omega-3 warning to keep in mind is that omega 3 oils act as blood thinners. This can be beneficial for people who have clumpy, "sticky" blood. Blood thinners may help the blood flow more easily through arteries, benefiting the functioning of the heart. But too many blood thinners can post certain risks as well. It's not that omega-3's are dangerous in this regard. It's just that if you are already taken blood thinners (whether over-the-counter or prescription) you should talk to your doctor before adding omega-3 supplements to your daily health regimen to make sure you aren't thinning your blood too much. Overall for most people in the Western world, the problem isn't one of an omega-3 overdose, but not getting enough of these vital fats, which help improve brain and heart health, and do so much more. 1 to 2 grams a day of a purified, high quality, omega 3 rich fish oil supplement with low Vitamin A content is one of the best things the vast majority of Westerners can do to improve their health.