Omega 3 capsules - the latest trend?! The capsules contain the important omega 3 fatty acids. These acids are essential for our body. This means that we have to absorb these healthy fatty acids through food because our body cannot produce these messenger substances itself. Anyone who follows a balanced diet and does not eat a vegan diet usually achieves their optimal daily dose of omega 3 fatty acids. But if you don't achieve this, taking omega 3 capsules can make sense.
In this article we deal with the question of what is behind the omega 3 capsules and whether they can make a variety of differences, both in everyday life and in sports or during pregnancy.
the essentials in brief
- Omega 3 capsules contain the important omega 3 fatty acids, which are healthy and unsaturated fatty acids. We humans have to ingest these fatty acids through food or take them in capsule form.
- The Omega 3 capsules are primarily oil-filled capsules. They often contain fish oil, algae oil or cod oil.
- The omega 3 fatty acids consist of ALA, EPA and DHA acids, which can do different jobs in the body. The acids can have a positive effect on blood pressure, the brain and the heart.
Background: What are Omega 3 capsules and what do they promise?
In order to give you the broadest possible overview, we have dealt in particular with what is behind the omega 3 capsules and whether they can be helpful in everyday life. So that our research is well walled, we give you the knowledge that is based on scientific statements as far as possible.
What are Omega 3 capsules and what are they made of?
The Omega 3 capsules are omega 3 fatty acids in capsule form. An NIH study shows that the omega 3 fatty acids are long-chain and belong to the unsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are among the healthy fats that we need to get from our diet. A distinction is made between three forms:(1)
- ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid)
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
EPA and DHA are particularly important for our body because they can be found in almost every cell in the body. Both of these acids can form from ALA. To ensure this, an optimal dose of omega 3 capsules can be useful. The capsules often contain fish oil or ALA-rich vegetable oils such as flaxseed or black nettle. There are also EPA and DHA rich vegetable oils such as algal oils derived from microalgae.
EPA and DHA are formed from ALA.
So far, this dietary supplement is not well regulated, which is why the dosage and the ingredients of the capsules are very different. For example, only the content of the omega 3 fatty acids has to be on the packaging and not the individual ALA, EPA and DHA values, which would be important for an optimal dosage.
What types of Omega 3 capsules are there?
The Omega 3 capsules are available in different versions. Depending on age and weight, there is a different daily dose that is optimal. In addition, the capsules are obtained from different oils. This includes:
For children, the omega 3 capsules are also available with a fruity, delicious taste with no added sugar, such as strawberries or lemons. The capsules are advertised as being cleansed of heavy metals and other contaminants that may occur due to sustainable wild-caught fish oil.
What are the tasks of omega 3 capsules in the body?
Omega 3 capsules tackle different tasks in the body. Essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body but are essential for good health. With the omega 3 fatty acids, ALA is further desaturated via an enzyme system to EPA and DHA.
Research has shown that the effects in the body vary depending on the fatty acid. For this reason we have differentiated the effects of the omega 3 capsules according to the three fatty acids.
ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid)
Eating an ALA-rich diet can lower the risk of heart problems. For example, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) in the body can help reduce mortality from heart disease. However, in the same study, a link was found between prostate cancer and high levels of ALA. This connection needs to be further investigated.(2)
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
A study by the National Library of Medicine (NIH) provides evidence that EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) independently, but also in combination, could regulate blood pressure and blood clotting. More research is needed to confirm these indications.(3)
Fats, also known as lipids, each have different special properties. Including the property to prevent inflammation. (4) This property is said to be the EPA. It is also believed that EPA can provide a good mental mood. However, this assumption needs to be further explored.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
DHA plays an important role in human cognitive processes. DHA is therefore very important for brain development, especially in childhood.(5)
The DHA fatty acid is very important to improve Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning ability. DHA is the most important fatty acid for brain function and eye vision.(6)
When does it make sense to take Omega 3 capsules?
Taking omega 3 capsules as a dietary supplement makes sense if the daily requirement for omega 3 fatty acids is not covered by food. With a balanced diet, enough omega 3 fatty acids are usually absorbed in the body. With a vegetarian or vegan diet, on the other hand, the body is supplied with too little or hardly any EPA and DHA.
The preparations of the omega 3 capsules differ in type and quantity. On the one hand, there are omega 3 capsules that contain the individual omega 3 fatty acids. On the other hand, there are capsules that contain other healthy acids. For example, multivitamin products also contain omega 3 fatty acids, but also many other acids that you have already covered. Therefore, it is very important to deal with the correct selection of the preparation.
In order to prevent an omega 3 fatty acid deficiency or an overdose, it makes sense to consult your family doctor. There is a blood test that measures EPA and DHA in the blood. The doctor can use these blood values to determine your need for omega 3 fatty acids and, if necessary, optimize them.
Which foods contain omega 3 fatty acids?
As already explained, omega 3 fatty acids are ingested through food. There are some foods, especially oils, that are high in omega 3 fatty acids. To give you an overview, we have summarized a few foods in the table:
|Omega 3 fat source||Groceries|
|oils||Hemp Oil, Olive Oil, Chia Oil, Soybean Oil, Linseed Oil, Walnut Oil, Canola Oil|
|nut/seed||Flaxseed, Chia Seed, Walnut|
|Vegetables||Leafy greens, lamb's lettuce, collard greens, legumes, spinach, kale, leeks, zucchini, Chinese cabbage, green beans, microalgae|
|Fruit||Blueberries, Mango, Galia Melon|
|Fish||Tuna, herring, salmon, sardines in oil, mackerel|
Vegetable foods mainly contain ALA, i.e. linseed oil, rapeseed oil, walnut oil and others. In the metabolic process, ALA is converted into EPA and DHA, but only to a very small extent. So in order to meet the need for omega 3 capsules, doctors repeatedly advise fatty fish such as herring, sardines, salmon and tuna. These are rich in omega 3 fatty acids in the EPA and DHA form.
Algae oil capsules are suitable for vegans.
Vegetarians and vegans can mainly rely on the vegetable oils. Nuts are also a wonderful source of omega 3 fatty acids. If none of this helps to ensure the need for omega 3, there is the option of taking omega 3 capsules. These often consist of fish oil or linseed oil. If you want to protect the fish farm, you can use the omega 3 capsules made from algae oil. Here, of course, the energy and water consumption in the cultivation of algae is very problematic.
In the next chapter we will discuss which side effects can occur when taking omega 3 capsules.
What side effects can Omega 3 capsules cause?
The consumer advice center has published various side effects that are due to an overdose or a previous illness. In addition, a comparison of the side effects is made more difficult because the content of the omega 3 capsules does not have to be differentiated between ALA, EPA and DHA.(7) The following side effects are known to date:
- nausea and vomiting
- bleeding risk
- Difficult blood sugar control in diabetics
- Increasing susceptibility to infection
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Be careful when taking additional medication
So far, unfortunately, there are no maximum amounts for omega 3 fatty acids, which the Federal Ministry for Risk Assessment absolutely requires. This means that it always makes sense to discuss taking omega 3 capsules with your trusted doctor.
How do I take omega 3 capsules correctly?
As mentioned above, a balanced diet usually provides the body with a sufficient supply of omega 3 fatty acids. If you do not cover your omega 3 needs, you can use omega 3 capsules. You should be careful not to exceed a dose of 5 grams of EPA and DHA.
5 grams are harmless without side effects. (8) Take the capsules with a large glass of water and observe yourself and your body over the duration of the intake to determine changes, but also side effects.
During our research, we found that the recommended dosage varies by source. This means for you that your own rational view of the dosage recommendations is quite favourable. We recommend the 5 grams because it often came up in research.
Do omega 3 capsules help with sports activities?
Omega 3 fatty acids have interesting effects that I explained to you above. A study from the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) shows that athletes can benefit from omega 3 fatty acids. For example, footballers were supplied with DHA-rich fish oil per day for four weeks. After runtime, an improvement in response time and efficiency was observed. It is therefore reasonable to assume that omega 3 lead to better training results and recovery, as well as a reduced risk of disease.(9)
Omega 3 fatty acids in food or in capsule form have a positive effect on athletic performance. (Image Source: Vince Fleming / Unsplash)
Fatty acids prevent inflammation. This also applies to inflammations that are caused in the muscles, tendons and joints. Sporting activities go hand in hand with heavy muscle strain, whereby the omega 3 fatty acids could counteract this muscle strain.
And as everywhere, the following applies here: It's all about the mix! The omega 3 capsules can only support your body in covering your need for omega 3 fatty acids. You have to power through the sport and fitness yourself.
Can I lose weight with Omega 3 capsules?
What is healthy for the body also helps to become physically fit and slim? We could say that, whether that's really true, there are different opinions on that. But what we do know is that healthy fats play an important role in maintaining a normal body weight.
But if we look at the previous, scientifically based effects of omega 3 fatty acids, then the following aspects can also be useful for a healthy diet and thus also for a diet:
- Metabolism: The metabolism is stimulated by omega 3 fat sources such as legumes and leafy vegetables. This promotes digestion.
- Sport: Fats instead of carbohydrates can serve as a source of energy during training. This means that omega 3 can help on the way to a normal weight.
- Valuable oils: play a special role as they have a healthy EPA/DHA ratio. This includes high-quality fish oils, linseed oils and algae oils, etc.(10)
What is certain is that taking omega 3 alone or even overdosing it will not lead to weight loss. It's just a matter of appreciating healthy fats and consciously incorporating them into your diet. If you want to take omega 3 capsules, you should speak to your family doctor beforehand.
Can I take Omega 3 capsules during pregnancy?
Taking omega 3 capsules during pregnancy is possible with the agreement of your family doctor, but is not absolutely necessary.
A BMJ study shows that taking omega 3 capsules during pregnancy can have a growth-promoting effect. For example, children as young as six in the study who also supplemented with omega 3 during pregnancy had higher lean, bone and fat mass.(11)
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether you consider additional omega 3 capsules to be useful during pregnancy . However, if you already regularly visit omega 3 fat sources in your diet, an additional intake is not absolutely necessary.
The additional intake of omega 3 capsules is very controversial. As our research shows above, there are studies that confirm the relevance of sufficient omega 3 fatty acids. However, we have to be clear that the effects are only at the "might" level and not a cure for all ailments, although that may be very tempting.
In addition, omega 3 capsules are advertised with exaggerated promises. For example, a study has shown that omega 3 fatty acids can contribute to a normal cardiovascular system, and the ad says “Omega 3 capsules for healing protection against cardiovascular disease”. So keep your wits about you and consider whether taking additional capsules makes sense for you.
Due to their different intensity, omega 3 capsules do not have the same effect as consuming a salmon fish. Nevertheless, omega 3 capsules have positive effects when optimally dosed. Up to a total of 5 grams per day, no side effects are to be expected. However, it is always a good idea to consult your family doctor.
- Shahidi F, Ambigaipalan P. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Their Health Benefits. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2018 Mar 25;9:345-381. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-111317-095850. PMID: 29350557. Source
- Brouwer IA, Katan MB, Zock PL. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid is associated with reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease, but increased risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis. J Nutr. 2004 Apr;134(4):919-22. doi: 10.1093/jn/134.4.919. PMID: 15051847. Source
- Guo XF, Li KL, Li JM, Li D. Effects of EPA and DHA on blood pressure and inflammatory factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(20):3380-3393. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1492901. Epub 2019 Feb 4. PMID: 29993265. Source
- Bennett M, Gilroy DW. Lipid mediators in inflammation. Microbial Spectr. 2016 Nov;4(6). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.MCHD-0035-2016. PMID: 27837747. Source
- Agostoni C, Trojan S, Bellù R, Riva E, Bruzzese MG, Giovannini M. Developmental quotient at 24 months and fatty acid composition of diet in early infancy: a follow up study. Arch Dis Child. 1997May;76(5):421-4. doi: 10.1136/adc.76.5.421. PMID: 9196357; PMCID: PMC1717175. Source
- Singh, M. Essential fatty acids, DHA and human brain. Indian J Pediatr 72, 239-242 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02859265 Source
- Consumer center: Omega-3 fatty acid capsules useful dietary supplement? Published on 05/27/20. Source
- European Food Safety Authority: EFSA assesses the safety of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Published on 07/27/12. Source
- Gammone, MA; Riccioni, G.; Parrinello, G.; D'Orazio, N. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. Nutrients 2019, 11, 46. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11010046 Source
- dr Volker Schmiedel: Does omega-3 make you slim? In: Dr. forge Published on 01/28/16. Source
- Vinding RK, Stokholm J, Sevelsted A, Sejersen T, Chawes BL, Bønnelykke K et al. Effect of fish oil supplementation in pregnancy on bone, lean, and fat mass at six years: randomized clinical trial BMJ 2018; 362 :k3312 doi:10.1136/bmj.k3312 Source