Omega-3 Fatty Acids: More Than Just Fish Burps

It’s become the practice here on chipur to discuss biological topics on Tuesday. And the chat often turns to supplements. So why break with tradition? Let’s do it again and talk about Omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids (O3FAs) are essential fatty acids. And that means we need ’em, but can’t make ’em. So, we have to get them from what we eat.

The O3FAs include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are the two O3FAs found in fish oil.

Why All the Hub-Bub?

O3FAs don’t need an image consultant. Amongst other situations, using them may positively impact…

  • High cholesterol and triglycerides – O3FAs increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and lower triglycerides (fats in the blood).
  • Hypertension: Lowers blood pressure.
  • Heart disease: Lowers risk of death, heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heart rhythms in individuals who have already had a heart attack. Helps prevent and treat hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
  • Stroke: Reduces the threat caused by plaque buildup and blood clots in the arteries that lead to the brain. But high doses of O3Fas may increase the risk of bleeding, which may spike the chances of a hemorrhagic stroke (due to brain artery leaks or ruptures).
  • Diabetes: O3FAs may be helpful because of their impact upon high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol levels. They also lower apoproteins (markers of diabetes).
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Helps reduce symptoms, including joint pain and morning stiffness.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): Helps reduce symptoms.
  • Osteoporosis: May increase levels of calcium and improve bone strength – and, perhaps, increase bone density.
  • Depression: Greater improvement in symptoms has been noted when used as an adjunct to prescription antidepressant treatment – versus antidepressants alone.
  • Bipolar Disorder: When used as an adjunct to prescribed medications, may lead to less severe mood cycling and relapse.

Do I Have a Short Supply?

Are your levels of O3FAs low? Hmmm, could be. Here are some common symptoms (but don’t go overboard)…

Fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings, depression, and poor circulation.

Where Can I Get Some?

The top-drawer dietary sources of O3FAs are fish, plant, and nut oils. EPA and DHA are found in cold-water fish – salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring. EPA and DHA can be taken in the form of fish oil capsules. ALA is found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, purslane, perilla seed oil, walnuts, and walnut oil.

Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include sea life such as krill and algae.


  • First, and always foremost, if you’re considering the use of supplemental O3FAs, touch base with your physician. There are any number of drug interaction issues, as well as other potential health concerns.
  • If you’re going to use O3FAs in supplement form, be vigilant in buying them from established and trusted companies. Their products must be certified to be free of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium.
  • Bruise easily? Have a bleeding disorder? Be careful!
  • If you’re going to use fish oil, beware of gas, bloating, belching (fish burps – yuck), and diarrhea.
  • Type 2 diabetes? Be sure to check with your doc.
  • Be extra sure to chat with your physician if you’re taking – aspirin, Coumadin, Plavix, Glucotrol, Glucotrol XL, Micronase, Diabeta, Metformin, insulin, Sandimmune, Tegison, and topical corticosteroids.

So how ’bout it? Good information? chipur does its best to present objective, relevant, and helpful information. You bet – that’s how we all learn and heal!

Oh, almost forgot. Need additional information on omega-3 fatty acids, or other supplements? Touch base with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Click away here.

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