Are You Spending Too Much for Omega-3's?

1SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/18/2010 6:39 AM   :  53 comments   :  22,300 Views

In 2008, over-the-counter fish oil supplement sales in the United States nearly topped $740 million. Add to that the additional $1.8 billion spent on other omega-3 fortified foods like margarine and peanut butter and you can see that omega-3 is big business. Is this money well spent or nothing more than an oil spill.

The many omega-3 benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, improving cholesterol profiles by decreasing triglycerides and increasing protective HDL's or supporting mental health are all wonderful reasons to include omega-3 rich foods in our diet. Since these essential fatty acids are not made by the body and have been found to be so beneficial, they have become a new supplement marketing focus. According to a recent Forbes article, they are not always the best use of our money.

Here are some important things to keep in mind as you select at the supermarket or supplement aisle to be sure you are making nutrient and money wise omega-3 choices.

More than one type of omega-3's - Two kinds of omega-3 have been proven to help heart disease. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are considered to be long-chain forms of omega-3. There is also a third type of omega-3 called alpha-lineolinic acid (ALA) which is the short-chain form of omega-3. Flax, nuts, and some fortified foods contain ALA, which cardiologists do not believe provide the same heart protection benefits since it is only converted in the body to EPA in small amounts. If you are interested in omega-3's for the heart benefit, make sure it is from an EPA or DHA sources instead of an ALA source. If you are looking to improve blood pressure, DHA may be most beneficial.

Not all supplements are created equal Salmon is the classic omega-3 fatty acid rich fish that provide a balance of EPA and DHA oils. Other oily fish such as herring, sea bass, and mackerel are also good sources as well. Be sure you are aware of the fish oil source for the supplement you select. Try to balance your intake with the omega-3's that are missing from your diet. There are algae omega-3 supplements as well that may provide more of an ALA source like flax and nuts. It would likely be better to have a DHA or EPA supplement instead since a vegetarian diet is most likely very rich in ALA omega-3's.

Know how much you need According to the American Heart Association, if you desire to reduce your risk of heart disease you need approximately 500 mg of omega-3's per day. This can be achieved with oily fish consumption such as salmon or shrimp twice a week balanced with plant based omega-3 sources such as flaxseed and walnuts. If your diet is low in those heart protecting and healthy sources of fatty acids, supplementation may be beneficial. It is important to evaluate your diet first before assuming that supplementation is necessary. When you do select a supplement or omega-3 enriched food, be sure you are getting DHA and EPA sources of omega-3's to be sure you are getting the most usable and protective nutrition for the money.

Do you have a diet rich in omega-3's? Do you think omega-3 rich foods or supplements are a better choice for the money?


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Comments

  • SARAHCRIER
    53
    I am a big fan of Wild Planet Foods. Their products include sustainably caught Tuna, Alaskan Salmon, Pacific Shrimp & California Sardines. It is really delicious and the Wild Planet Tuna has six times the Omega 3 and less than half the mercury compared to national brands. I highly recommend it! http://www.wildplanetfoods.com / - 3/4/2011   12:43:38 PM
  • 52
    I give my son Nordic Natural Ultimate Omega because of his anxiety and ADHD. We tried fish oil supplements after I read about the results of the Durham study on ADHD treatment with prescriptions versus prescriptions plus EPA/DHA. My initial mistake was not giving him enough of either to make a difference. But after rechecking the dosage, we got it straightened out. It takes about 2-3 weeks to start to see a difference in concentration, mood and anxiety, but it's absolutely worth the expense. He has been taking supplements for 3 years. Honestly, the EPA/DHA supplements make a bigger difference than the ADHD medication. He can skip a day or two of Concerta but not the fish oil. - 4/9/2010   10:25:25 PM
  • 51
    We normally have fish about twice a week, and I added walnuts to our breakfast oatmeal awhile back. And I sometimes take a fish oil capsule, especially if it is not a fish day. - 3/27/2010   7:55:06 AM
  • 50
    Thanks for the terriffic article, I had some information regarding Omega 3s, this article was very helpful; excellent article. - 3/24/2010   5:03:27 PM
  • 49
    I'm a vegetarian who doesn't eat any fish. I do eat flax & walnuts though. I have never eaten meat or fish of any kind. I do not take fish supplements either because, well, I'm a vegetarian. :) I seem to be doing OK so far & I'm almost 29...so I guess an imperfect diet can still sustain. - 3/23/2010   9:49:19 AM
  • 48
    Natural vitamin and mineral consumption is always the way to go. You don't need 1000% of Omega-3s, calcium or vitamin D. Eat healthily and chances are you're getting all the nutrients you need. Pediatricians will tell you that if your child eats a varied diet, he/she doesn't need a vitamin supplement either. It's a lot of marketing and a lot of wasted money! - 3/22/2010   7:20:08 AM
  • 47
    KIMHALLMARK, I have the same question? Should I switch back to Fish Oil Omega supplements? Let me know if you find the answer!
    -Tanya
    - 3/22/2010   6:11:48 AM
  • 46
    Does this mean I should take Omega 3 fish oil instead of Omega 3 Flax oil. I was taking fish oil but switched to Flax because I burped up fish oil all the time? tasted YUCK big time. - 3/22/2010   1:59:35 AM
  • 45
    Yeah, I do pretty good with the omega threes. - 3/22/2010   1:09:08 AM
  • 44
    I love fish - usually have it 3 times a week. Also use flax when baking or mix it in my smoothies. As far as supplements - I take Schiff Krill. - 3/21/2010   10:13:59 PM
  • 43
    This is an interesting article. It has also made me realize I need to research this further to add more into our diets. I made the mistake of thinking Olive Oil was an Omega 3 (from another weight loss company message board).

    It seems Omega 3's are available in many veggies.

    I will look into Flax seed oil - I assume we can add this to food or cook with the same as we would Olive Oil.

    Lots to research on this. Good mind food for a Sunday afternoon../ - 3/21/2010   12:21:01 PM
  • 42
    eat fish, flaxseed and supplements - 3/20/2010   2:40:53 PM
  • 41
    Omega3's breakdown very quickly at cooking temperatures, so even when I can get affordable oily fish I am not sure I am getting an adequate "dose". 500 mg seems to be a bare minimum for heart health, but much higher amounts offer greater greater benefits of nervous system and brain support for mood. With a physician's assistance on dosing I take 9 - 12 grams of fish oil as a part of my regimen for mood control. I notice anti-inflammatory benefits as well as better mood at those higher doses. - 3/20/2010   2:14:55 PM
  • 40
    I eat my salmon,flaxseed,and supplements. They have really helped me. - 3/20/2010   12:39:30 PM
  • VANANDEL
    39
    My diet does include salmon and flax, but my doctor still recommends taking fish oil for my heart. And it seems to help.

    This article was fantastic because we just happened to have two different fish oil supplements in the house and we compared them. Now we know which is the better one. And happily, the better one was a one-a-day capsule versus a three-a-day regiment. Thanks for the information on different types of omega-3's. I also sent this article to two people I know with high blood pressure. One of them was using a lot of flax for his omega-3's, which isn't the best. - 3/20/2010   10:54:42 AM
  • JUJUBE01
    38
    I eat canned sardines. They come in different varieties: lemon and pepper, hot sauce, tomato sauce, mustard sauce. They usually cost less than 1$ a can. Cheap ! I love flaxseeds and maple syrup in my oatmeal in the morning. - 3/20/2010   8:35:12 AM
  • 37
    I take Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omegas every day. Studies suggest (and my own experience tells me) that taking a potent Omega-3 supplement with DHA and EPA helps combat depression! With my supplement and daily excersize I now feel sooooo much better about life than I did before. It's a small price to pay (in my opinion) for a healthy mood. - 3/19/2010   11:46:45 PM
  • 36
    I supplement my diet with the fish oil pills. I've checked and they've got all 3 kinds.

    And I just learned a couple of weeks ago from my eye doc that omega-3's are also good for your eye health. He was glad to know I was already taking them. - 3/19/2010   11:31:26 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    35
    The supplement oil pills are equivelent to one bite of fish, so keep that in mind. And many of them have been tested and really contain vegetable oil and a "fishy odor", no matter what the bottle says, our FDA is not doing well at all. - 3/19/2010   9:47:24 PM
  • JEANNETTE59
    34
    Great info, I'm good to go, as I eat salmon or seabass 2 or 3 times a week and add flax seed to whole grain cereal and salads, which are part of my daily intake.
    Try chilled poached salmon on a bed of mixed greens, cucumbers and tomatoes, a splash of extra virgin olive oil, a squeese of lemon juice, freshly ground pepper and dill or seasoning of your choice. Top with a sprinkle of groud flax seeds. Enjoy! - 3/19/2010   4:39:39 PM
  • SOURCHILD
    33
    I used to do flax but then I learned about the differet kinds of Omega 3 and how fish oil is a much better choice. I don't eat seafood and I don't like swallowing a million capsules a day, so I just buy Carlson's Finest Fish Oil (liquid, not capsules) in lemon or orange flavour and put it on plain yogurt with some stevia. I can't taste a bit of fish (it actually tastes good!) and it is much more economical. - 3/19/2010   4:13:04 PM
  • 32
    Good information for everyone. I love fish and eat it two to three times a week. I also frequently take an EPA/DHA capsule. - 3/19/2010   1:00:08 PM
  • 31
    I'd rather eat my Omega 3's. We eat a lot of shrimp, & I'm looking for a good recipe for salmon that doesn't make it taste too fishy. I used to love mackerel the way Daddy cooked it, but I don't remember how. - 3/19/2010   12:40:53 PM
  • 30
    I love salmon and walnuts. I roast nuts on the stove and eat them warm. I don't think I need supplements because other nuts and fish contain omega 3 but, if I am away from home for a week or more I would take a fish pill. - 3/19/2010   11:59:52 AM
  • 29
    I don't eat fish. Walnuts are disgusting.

    Although I do take some fish oil supplements and I try to have flax whenever I have oatmeal. So I'm sure I'm not getting as much as I could be getting, but enough for me. - 3/19/2010   11:40:13 AM
  • PRESHA911
    28
    I don't think I'm getting enough omega-3's because I only eat fish (on average) once a week. However, I'm a firm believer in getting most of your nutrients from your diet, not supplements. So, unless a person is allergic to these omega-3-rich foods, supplements should be unnecessary. - 3/19/2010   9:32:27 AM
  • 27
    I get my Omega 3 from food.
    I try, in as much as it's possible, to get nutrients in their natural state. - 3/19/2010   7:58:46 AM
  • 26
    Q1: Do you have a diet rich in omega-3's?
    A: No, I don't eat fish or flax, and I don't care to. I do eat nuts occasionally but not near enough.

    Q2: Do you think omega-3 rich foods or supplements are a better choice for the money?
    A: Definitely supplements, hands-down, absolutely, no question no doubt. They do alot more good than just heart disease, too. - 3/19/2010   12:29:39 AM
  • 25
    Wow! Thanks for posting. I have never really researched Omega 3's before and didn't realized there were 3 types. Good info to know. Now I know I need to really get more fish in. I was counting on those walnuts to pull me through! - 3/18/2010   11:09:51 PM
  • 24
    I take fish oil capsules daily, & try to eat fish every Now & then. - 3/18/2010   10:04:53 PM
  • 23
    I take Green Pasture's Blue Ice fermented cod liver oil for my omega 3's. It's a non industrial cod liver oil. They make it the way it's been made for hundreds of years. Cod liver oil is very good for you. It's has your omega 3's. It has vitamin D, which we all need more of. It also has vitamin A. If you get the fermented cod liver oil, it has good bacteria like any fermented food. - 3/18/2010   9:17:31 PM
  • 22
    Great info, I eat a lot of fish to get the omega 3's that I need. - 3/18/2010   8:36:04 PM
  • 21
    Great info! I'm been taking fish oil for a couple of months now and I'm very to see that the Nordic Naturals I'm taking is high in the amounts of omega-3's needed for heart protection, etc. - 3/18/2010   7:33:44 PM
  • 20
    Thanks for the information - 3/18/2010   7:27:56 PM
  • 19
    Good info - 3/18/2010   5:01:08 PM
  • 18
    GREAT THANKS I DID NOT KNOW HOW MUCH YOU NEEDED.. - 3/18/2010   3:23:40 PM
  • 17
    Excellent article. I, too, am vegan and hadn't realized the distinction between flax oil and fish oil. I wonder if I can find a good, vegan supplement? I feel better educated, anyway. - 3/18/2010   1:51:52 PM
  • 16
    Is heart function the only benefit of Omega-3's? Because my blood pressure is fine and I don't take any supplements. If there are other benefits, however, I might be interested. Thanks for the information about the different kind of Omaga-3's out there. - 3/18/2010   1:34:00 PM
  • 15
    I've been taking fish oil supplements for years and hate the after effects of fish burps. Yuck! SO recently I switched to Nature's Fresh Omega Blendz. It's an Omega 3 supplement with DHA and EPA. You only need 2 tsp per day and it tastes like lemon curd and has a smoothie like consistency. No more fish burps!!!! Yippee!!!!! I got mine at COSTCO for $21 and it has 65 servings per bottle. Way cheaper than salmon. Although I do eat salmon regularly just because I love it.

    I don't know if it's the Omega 3s or the placebo effect, but I believe I have much less brain fog and think more clearly. - 3/18/2010   12:58:44 PM
  • 14
    I'm a stickler for giving my Westie salmon oil in her food everyday, but I don't do the same for myself. We are trying to be more concious eaters and have cut down a lot on fish since learning the negative impact fishing and fish farming is on the environment. Which is why it's so important to take these supplements. This blog opened my eyes on learning how to shop for quality supplements. Thanks! - 3/18/2010   11:57:32 AM
  • SUNSET09
    13
    I don't take any additional supplements other than my multi-vitamin. I try to consume more of my requirements from the foods I eat! The foods are always a better option, I think! - 3/18/2010   11:10:30 AM
  • 12
    I'm not one for supplements or pills/capsules of any kind...and as I am not a vegetarian, I can plan balanced meals without having to worry about supplements. I have a problem remembering to take calcium/Vitamin D supplements (due to age & family history of osteo) because I dislike medications/pills so much.

    Since joining SparkPeople I have increased my fish/seafood intake to include at least one serving of deep water/cold water fish & seafood per week, in addition to my regular tuna. I've always liked tuna, and now am getting adventurous at the fish counter in the stores.

    I now chat with the local fish monger & ask about the types of fish, best way to cook them, where they are fished & shipped from...all the questions to ensure that I am getting healthy, fresh fish. Also, as I am not a 'real' fish lover, I always ask for the milder tasting fish.

    I am learning to love fish. - 3/18/2010   10:59:18 AM
  • 11
    omega-3s are the ONE supplement I don't take. I LOVE nuts and I LOVE fish and I would sincerely miss avocados and flax if I had to go without. I've found ways to get them all cheaply into my diet (thank you bulk bins, frozen foods, and avocado tree on campus) so I don't need to supplement. - 3/18/2010   10:48:57 AM
  • 10
    I will continue to take the supplements. Both my physician and my eye doctor recommend them. However, I will check the label to try and find the ones with DPH and EPA as their sources. I try to regularly eat ground flax seed, walnuts, salmon, and shrimp as well. - 3/18/2010   10:23:02 AM
  • SIGOURNEY2
    9
    We are trying to incorporate healthy Omega 3's into our diet. Unfortunately, my husband has a serious nut and fish allergy. We've tried adding ground flax seed to food, but this too causes a allergic reaction in him. I am leary of trying the fish oil based supplements. Does anyone know of what omega three foods/supplements would work with someone who has these allergies? - 3/18/2010   10:19:47 AM
  • 8
    Fortunately I love tuna with a little low fat mayo as a frequent lunch entree, otherwise I'm not a seafood fan. I do enjoy the almonds, and add walnuts and flaxseed to my homemade oat bran muffins. - 3/18/2010   10:06:56 AM
  • 7
    I am aware of the omega's and how important they are, unfortunately I am allergic to fish oils of any kind so do rely on flax seed oil as well as primerose oil and others to help me get my omegas that way. There are other sources... - 3/18/2010   9:53:44 AM
  • 6
    Are there vegetarian supplements/sources that have EPA and DHA omega-3's? Most of the supplement I've seen are made of or contain fish oil. - 3/18/2010   9:08:04 AM
  • 5
    I use supplements, which really aren't that expensive, but I don't buy food with "added" Omega-3s. I try to eat seafood at least 1x a week, but that also gets expensive. However, I just got some blood work back and my HDL is nice and high (in a good way)! - 3/18/2010   8:10:35 AM
  • T_LUVS_2_RUN
    4
    The supplements made my stomach feel strange. I will stick with the flaxseed and walnuts. - 3/18/2010   7:45:18 AM

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