Omega Supplements: Are They Really Effective?

Are omega supplements good for you? Omega-3s are a helpful and important form of fat, one that your body needs but can't make.
omega supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important for your body and brain. Image via Shutterstock

Omega supplements are among the most commonly used supplements in the world. You probably heard of omega-3 supplements like fish oil, but there are actually other choices when it comes to this supplement. Let us walk you through those.

What are Omega Supplements?

Omega supplements are dietary supplements composed of fatty acids omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9. They come in two forms, one which contains omega-3 alone and combination supplement consisting of all three. Fish oil is the most common omega supplement and it often consist of omega-3 only.

The main reason why omega-3 supplements are more common than the combined form is because omega-6 can easily be obtained from diet, while omega-9 can be synthesized by the body on its own. Omega-3, on the other hand, you can get enough of if you often eat oily fish like mackerel, marlin, salmon, sardines, and tuna.

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Reasons for Taking Omega Supplements

Omega supplements offer a lot of health benefits and there are many reasons for their use. The most common ones, however, include:

Improving cardiovascular health

Omega fatty acids have been shown to reduce the amounts of bad cholesterol in the blood and increase the good cholesterol levels. This leads to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of arterial plaque formation.

Promoting normal brain development and function

Pregnant women are encouraged to take omega supplements to ensure normal brain development of their unborn baby. DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, is responsible for such benefit. This fatty acid is useful not only for brain development, but also for normal brain function in adults. In fact, omega fatty acids have been proven to slow down cognitive decline and prevent dementia in older individuals.

Maintaining bone health

Individuals who take omega supplements on a regular basis were found to have increased bone density (source).

Fighting and reducing inflammation

Omega fatty acids, especially omega-3, serve as precursor of various anti-inflammatory substances. This means they can help reduce inflammation in the body and, in turn, contribute to the prevention of chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. According to studies, regular intake of omega-3 in early life can help alleviate the symptoms of asthma later.

Key Ingredients to Look for in Omega Supplements

The three forms of omega fatty acids found in omega supplements are the following:

1. Omega-3

A polyunsaturated essential fatty acid that exists in three types, namely:

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) - A 20-carbon chain fatty acid prescribed mainly for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, due to its ability to lower blood triglycerides and prevent clot formation. It also plays a key role in muscle growth and repair, protection of the brain against oxidative stress, and general immunity. It has also been shown to relieve symptoms of depression.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) - A 22-carbon chain fatty acid deemed crucial for normal brain development in unborn babies and normal brain function in adults.

Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) - An 18-carbon chain fatty used by the body as an energy source. It can be converted to EPA and DHA, although the process for such is not very efficient. Other benefits of this fatty acid include supporting cardiovascular health, regulating immune response, and improving the function of the central nervous system.

2. Omega-6

Also an essential fatty acid, it is primarily used for energy production. The most common forms of omega-6 are:

Linoleic acid - The body converts it into arachidonic acid and subsequently into various proinflammatory substances. Take note that the amount of omega-6 taken must be in proper ratio with omega-3 because too much of this substance can result in inflammatory diseases.

Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) - When consumed in high doses, it helps relieve symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. There’s also a study which found that GLA combined with chemotherapeutic drugs for breast cancer are more effective in treating the disease that the drugs alone.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) - Has been shown to help modestly reduce fat mass in humans, although studies produced inconsistent results.

3. Omega-9

Unlike omega-3 and 6, this fatty acid is not strictly essential because the body can produce it on its own. In fact, it is the most abundant fat in the cells. Its benefits include lowering the amount of triglycerides in the blood as well as reducing bad cholesterol levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Not only that, omega-9 also improves sensitivity to insulin. Oleic acid is the most common form of omega-9.

Do Omega Supplements Work?

Omega supplements, especially omega-3 supplements, have been proven to be safe and effective especially for individuals with cardiovascular problems. Even experts recommend taking these supplements on a regular basis for better cardiovascular health.

Meanwhile, combined omega 3-6-9 supplements are also promising but experts argue that there is no general need for omega-6 and -9 supplementation as the body can obtain more than enough of both from diet.

On top of that, some brands include some ingredients like hydroxy acid known to remove dirt and dead cells from your skin to promote regeneration and rejuvenation of your skin[4].

How to Choose the Best Omega Supplements?

When choosing your omega supplements, the best one is that which contains the highest omega-3 content. But if you’re going to use combined omega supplements, check the label carefully. The three omega fatty acids (3-6-9) must have suitable proportions of 2:1:1. Also, keep in mind that these fatty acids are easily oxidized. Oxidation damages the fatty acid molecules, making them less effective. Heat causes oxidation, so go for ones that are cold pressed. To ensure that your supplement isn’t oxidized, it is advised to pick one that comes with antioxidants such as vitamin E.

Furthermore, choose a reputable manufacturer and also look at the available customer reviews to find the best product for you. If you can, it is ideal to consult your healthcare expert first in order to learn which ones are good.

The Bottom Line

To sum it up, omega supplements can be a great adjunct in promoting health, especially cardiovascular health. And although combine omega supplements are popular, they offer no additional benefit over the use of omega-3 alone.

**This is a subjective assessment based on the strength of the available informations and our estimation of efficacy.

*Result may vary. The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purpose. No medical claims are implied in this content, and the information herein is not intended to be used for self diagnosis or self treatment of any condition.

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