How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?

How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to overall health, but most Americans aren’t getting enough of the recommended 250-500mg of EPA and DHA through diet alone. Fish oil supplements can be an efficient solution to address gaps in nutrition and enjoy the benefits of diets rich in omega-3s.

How much fish oil you should take depends on your health situation, but there are general guidelines to get you started with fish oil supplementation.

Recommended Dosages

Health organizations recommend about 250-500 mg of combined eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) daily for most healthy adults. Fish oil is a natural source of these types of omega-3s, and a daily supplement can help you reach that goal. 

The amount of EPA and DHA in omega-3 supplements can vary, but most have at least 350 mg of omega-3s per softgel. 

Pregnant women, infants, and children have different needs. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests pregnant women consume 1.4 g of omega-3s daily compared to 1.1 g, which is the general recommendation for adult women. 

The general rule of thumb is to add an extra 200 mg of DHA to your diet if you are pregnant or nursing. DHA is the fatty acid responsible for fetal and infant development. 

Why Take Fish Oil?

Fish oil is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Both are essential to bodily functions that touch nearly every aspect of overall wellness. 

Health benefits of omega-3s include:

  • Improved heart health
  • Protective effects against cognitive decline
  • Better mental health outcomes
  • Immune system support
  • Improved skin and hair health
  • Reduced risk of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Better liver function
  • Improved retinal health, particularly in infants and small children

Your body can’t make these fatty acids on its own, so it’s essential to consume enough through foods high in omega-3s or supplements like fish oil when diet isn’t enough.

Fish oil supplements have the added bonus of vitamins A and D, two known anti-inflammatories essential to immune system health and strong bones

Dietary Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fatty fish are the best source of EPA and DHA. The American Heart Association recommends about 6-8 oz of oily fish per week for optimal heart health

Fish with higher amounts of essential fatty acids are:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Whitefish
  • Tuna
  • Cod liver oil 

Plant sources like flaxseed, soybeans, and chia seeds offer high doses of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another type of fatty acid. ALA boasts its own beneficial effects as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, but you won’t get the same boost as from fish-based sources. 

Note: Canola oil also contains ALA, but it’s high in omega-6s and contributes to inflammation. We do not recommend using it in your cooking.

A small amount of ALA is converted into EPA and DHA, but not enough to meet daily recommendations without fish in your diet. A daily dose of a quality fish oil supplement can help fill that gap if you don’t follow a fish-rich diet or can’t eat fish.

Not All Fish Oils Are Equal

When choosing a fish oil supplement, start with the label. Look for products with sufficient levels of EPA and DHA. A capsule may provide 1,200 mg of fish oil, but all of that might not be the specific EPA and DHA essential fatty acids you need. 

Check sell-by and freshness dates and that the product meets Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Look for any additives and certifications around purity standards. 

In the case of fish oil, certifications that show a product meets International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) are generally a good sign that the product is of higher quality and free of contaminants. 

Some labels may also list the types of fish used in that product. Mackerel, sardine, and anchovy are common and more likely to be sustainably fished. Pregnant or nursing women should look at the types of fish used to avoid fish high in mercury, like tuna or swordfish. Even if you are not pregnant, I recommend avoiding fish and/or fish oils from high-mercury fish. 

Who Should Take Fish Oil?

Everyone can benefit from a regular intake of omega-3s, starting with healthy adults who dislike or are unable to eat fish.

Some individuals benefit from an even higher dose. That includes adults with risk factors for coronary heart disease. Studies show omega 3 supplementation may positively affect triglyceride levels in the body. 

High triglycerides can be a sign of conditions that affect heart health, like high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure, and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Getting enough omega-3s  may also have a positive effect on joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis and your mental health, particularly when it comes to depression. Researchers believe this is thanks to the anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil’s fatty acids.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may also be put on an omega-3 supplement by their healthcare provider to support fetal development. 

We put all of our women on omega-3 supplementation when they are trying to conceive and throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Omega-3 fats and DHA, in particular, are essential to fetal and infant development in the brain and retinas up to about 18 months of age. 

Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in pregnancy has been associated with lower rates of asthma and allergies in children later in life and even lower risk of preterm labor and postpartum depression.


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by Dr. Soyona Rafatjah – February 16, 2024