There’s no specific daily amount of fish oil that experts agree on, but using it can help you meet the suggested daily intake of omega-3s.
A lot of individuals incorporate fish oil supplements into their daily routine.
Not only does fish oil benefit your brain, eyes, and heart, but it also combats inflammation throughout your body.
Many medical experts endorse its use, but determining the right amount for you might be confusing.
This article delves into the optimal quantity of fish oil to take for peak health.
Why should you take fish oil?
Fish oil can be incredibly beneficial for your health.
It contains omega-3 fatty acids, which protect your heart. You must get omega-3s from your diet, as your body cannot make them.
Some fish oils also supply vitamin A, an important antioxidant, and vitamin D, which is essential for bone health and overall immunity.
The main omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), impacting brain development and function.
Fish oil is an excellent source of these fatty acids.
If you do not eat oily fish regularly, it can be challenging to get enough EPA and DHA — because most other food sources of omega-3 are in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA does not appear to have the same beneficial effects as EPA and DHA.
Furthermore, the typical Western diet is too low in omega-3 compared to omega-6. Therefore, supplementing with fish oil can be a significant boost.
Summary: Fish oil contains the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, which are vital for brain development and function. You may want to consider supplements if you don’t eat fatty fish regularly.
Recommended dosages of fish oil
There is no set recommendation on how much fish oil you should take.
However, there are recommendations for total omega-3 intake, as well as EPA and DHA.
The recommended daily intake of combined EPA and DHA is 250–500 mg.
When buying fish oil supplements, make sure to read the label to determine how much EPA and DHA is provided. Typically, 1,000 mg of fish oil supplies around 300 mg of combined EPA and DHA.
Fish oil dosages for healthy individuals
The recommended daily intake for total omega-3 is 1,100 mg for women and 1,600 mg for men.
Most people get some omega-3 in their diet from foods such as flax seeds, soybean oil, and walnuts — but these contain ALA.
While your body can turn ALA into EPA and DHA, you likely won’t form adequate levels of these fatty acids on your own. Unless you eat about two portions (8 ounces or 224 grams) of oily fish per week, you could lack EPA and DHA.
Generally, up to 3,000 mg of fish oil daily is considered safe for adults to consume.
Fish oil dosages during pregnancy
EPA and DHA are essential for normal fetal development. DHA, in particular, accumulates in the brain during the last trimester of pregnancy.
However, many pregnant women do not meet the recommended daily intake for these fatty acids.
Supplementing with EPA and DHA during pregnancy can also benefit your child during infancy and childhood. Potential benefits include improved problem-solving skills and a reduced risk of asthma and food allergies.
The WHO recommends 300 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day — 200 mg of which should be DHA — during pregnancy.
As most fish oil supplements hold more EPA than DHA, you should try to find one with a higher ratio of DHA.
Be careful with cod liver oil during pregnancy, as it harbors large amounts of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can impair fetal development.
Suggested read: 13 evidence-based health benefits of fish oil
Just 1 teaspoon (4 ml) of cod liver oil provides 2,501 IU of vitamin A — which is about 97% of the recommended daily intake during pregnancy.
Fish oil dosages for infants and kids
The adequate intake of omega-3 for infants up to 1 year old is 500 mg, which gradually increases to regular adult intake at 14 years.
Likewise, the recommendations for EPA and DHA vary depending on age.
For example, around 100 mg of combined EPA and DHA is required for a 4-year-old, while an 8-year-old child needs about 200 mg.
Children’s fish liver oils will also naturally provide some vitamin A and D — as these are stored in fish liver — while other fish oil supplements may have additional vitamin D, A and E. Vitamin E keeps the oil stable and may prolong shelf life.
When purchasing a fish oil supplement for infants or children, try to find specific ones for the given life stage to ensure the correct amount of nutrients.
Summary: While there are set recommendations for EPA and DHA for healthy adults, pregnant women and infants and children have different needs.
Potential benefits of fish oil
To maintain a healthy heart, be sure you’re getting enough EPA and DHA.
Up to 1,000 mg of total EPA and DHA per day is recommended for people with coronary heart disease and at risk of a heart attack.
However, a recent review determined that additional EPA and DHA intake, whether through diet or supplements, had little or no effect on reducing the risk of a heart attack.
The study found that fish oil can reduce elevated triglycerides in your blood, which is a risk factor for heart disease. It can also increase “good” HDL cholesterol.
The higher the intake of EPA and DHA, the greater the effect on triglycerides. In two studies, 3.4 grams of combined EPA and DHA reduced triglycerides by 25–50% after 1–2 months.
Suggested read: Do vegetarians eat fish or seafood?
Fish oils can also lift your mood. Research indicates that supplementing with EPA and/or DHA can improve symptoms of depression.
However, because studies use irregular doses, there is no conclusive recommendation for specific amounts of fish oil or EPA and DHA for mental health.
One study noted that a daily dose of 1,400 mg of combined EPA and DHA reduced symptoms of depression in young adults after three weeks, while another study showed that 2,500 mg of EPA and DHA reduced anxiety in healthy people.
In one analysis, omega-3 supplements with higher ratios of EPA to DHA were the most effective in managing depression. Fish oils naturally contain higher ratios.
Increasing your intake of omega-3 can also ease inflammation in your body, possibly reducing joint inflammation.
However, a review of available studies suggested that EPA and DHA supplements do not consistently benefit people with osteoarthritis.
Thus, it is difficult to recommend a specific fish oil or fatty acid dose for joint health.
Even so, in a study of 75 people with knee osteoarthritis, 1,000 mg of fish oil daily — which included 400 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA — significantly improved knee performance.
Interestingly, a higher dose of 2,000 mg did not improve knee function any further.
Summary: Fish oil may help reduce triglycerides, improve mood and boost joint health — but dosage recommendations vary depending on the study and the specific health condition.
Is fish oil better than other omega-3 supplements?
Fish oil supplements supply EPA and DHA; many also have vitamins A and D.
Meanwhile, general omega-3 supplements may or may not contain EPA and DHA, depending on whether they are derived from fish, sea algae, or plant oils.
If your omega-3 supplement is made from sea algae, it has EPA and DHA. Usually, these supplements are high in DHA and low in EPA.
On the other hand, fish oil supplements likely have higher amounts of EPA than DHA, while plant-oil-based supplements give high amounts of ALA.
Although all omega-3s provide benefits, the most beneficial are EPA and DHA.
A fish oil supplement may boost your EPA and DHA levels if you do not eat fatty fish regularly. However, if you don’t consume any fish products, an algae-based supplement is a good alternative.
Otherwise, an omega-3 supplement made from plant oils will help increase your overall intake of omega-3s — but likely won’t raise your EPA or DHA levels.
Suggested read: 6 super healthy seeds you should eat
Summary: Not all omega-3s are equal. While fish oil supplements provide EPA and DHA, most plant sources of omega-3 give ALA — which can be difficult to convert into EPA and DHA.
A lot of studies back the idea of taking fish oil supplements.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all guideline, 250–500 mg daily of EPA and DHA combined, which you can easily get from fish oil, is generally good for most folks who are in good health.
Remember, your individual needs might differ. Also, expectant mothers, babies, and kids might need varying amounts.
If you’re considering increasing your intake, pick an omega-3 supplement with the advised levels of EPA and DHA.