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Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are a type of fatty acids derived from our diet. The are also called "essential fatty acids" because we cannot produce them ourselves. They serve to improve the fluidity and functionality of cell membranes and their benefits can be partially imagined as applying oil to dry leather. Omega 3 Fatty Acids are also anti-inflammatory which allows them to protect and lengthen the lifespan of cells in the brain, called neurons. There are 2 kinds of Omega 3 Fatty Acids- EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). It is important to find formulations that have at least 60% EPA (see further down for more on specific brands and dosing).

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are beneficial for almost all of our organ systems, but in psychiatry they are proven to help: 
-Impulsivity
-Focus
-Irritability
-Depression
-Mood swings
-Bipolar Disorder
-Affect Dysregulation in Borderline Personality Disorder
-Schizophrenia (evidence in prevention and in helping negative symptoms) 
-Memory

They also have proof in helping treat high triglycerides, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease, dry eyes, macualr degeneration, fatty liver, insulin sensitivity, psoriasis, dementia, asthma, skin, sleep, and joints.

How effective can Omega 3 Fatty Acids be in treating depression? 
When added to antidepressants, they have an effect size of 0.5 to 0.6, which as strong as the antidepressant itself! Note that this doesn't mean they are as strong as antidepressants when used without an antidepressant, but they still have some benefit when used alone.

Are they considered safe in Bipolar Disorder? 
Yes, they have been studied and are safe in bipolar disorder.

Are there side effects to Omega 3 Fatty Acids? 
There is a theoretical risk of an increased risk of bleeding so they should be used with caution in those with bleeding disorders, on blood thinners, or with previous hemorrhagic strokes.
Some complain of "seal burps", or fish tasting burps, but there are many preparations out, including gummies, that minimize this if it becomes a concern.
They have been studied and shown to be safe in all age groups.

How can we get Omega 3 Fatty Acids in our diet? 
According to the Carlat Report, we can get an equal amount of Omega 3 Fatty Acids by eating oily fish like salmon herring, and anchovies eaten at least 2 times per week. Other sources include certain walnuts, flaxseeds, edamame, fruits, and dark green vegetables.

Which brands and what dose should teens and adults consider? 
Follow the instructions on the label on the following brands: 
-Nordic Naturals ProEPA
-Nordic Naturals ProOmega Liquid
-Nature Made 1400
-Nature Made Burpless
-Carlson Elite EPA Gems
-GNC Triple Strength
-Spring Valley Maximum Care 2000 at Walmart

What brand and dose should children < 13 take? 
The goal dose is anywhere from 500 to 1000mg in this age group.
-OmegaVia EPA 500: start with 1 per day and increase to 2 per day after 1 week.
-Vitacost Super EPA: start with 1 per day and increase to 2 per day after 1 week.

Are there gummy options available? 
Here is a tropical punch flavor many kids like and gets to an adequate dose of 600mg.

Are there vegan options available? 
Yes, but the ratio of EPA to DHA is not as ideal. It is still better than nothing.
Here is a vegan option made from the Sachi Inchi plant.
Here is a vegan gummy sourced from Chia seeds.

Various sources for the above information include: Cholewski et al, Shahidi et al, and The Carlat Report.


Posted by David Danish MD