The Skinny on Omega-3 Fatty Acids - PIH Health

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Published on October 27, 2014

The Skinny on Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3

Omega 3

“Omega-3s are frequently covered in mainstream health-related media,” said Danielle Halewijn, clinical dietician at PIH Health Hospital – Whittier. “While studies are ongoing, it is important for consumers to understand the benefits.”

One fact is irrefutable...your body needs fatty acids to function, but since your body cannot make them, you have to get them from food. Two types of fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are found in fish. Another one, ALA, is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds.

Research has indicated that a diet that includes fatty acids can provide numerous benefits.

How They Help:

  • Heart Disease – Omega-3s lower triglyceride levels which can help prevent heart attacks
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – Fish oil can curb stiffness and joint pain
  • Inflammation – They can reduce inflammation, a key component in asthma
  • Cholesterol – They help lower cholesterol levels
  • Blood Pressure – Fish oil helps reduce blood pressure

Other studies have indicated that omega-3s can reduce risks or symptoms of diabetes, stroke, ulcerative colitis, some cancers, mental decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.

Ensure You Are Getting Enough

The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish per week. Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Anchovies
  • Bluefish
  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Salmon (wild salmon have more omega-3s than farmed)
  • Sardines
  • Sturgeon
  • Lake trout
  • Tuna

Avoid eating mackerel, swordfish, tilefish and shark, which have high levels of mercury, PCBs and other toxins.

Foods high in ALA are:

  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Soybean oil


People who do not eat fish or other omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods should consider taking an omega-3 supplement of 500 mg per day, explains, Halewijn. Fish oil is used in supplements, but there are also vegetarian supplements that have ALA.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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