Many studies have examined the potential health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are considered beneficial for healthy neurological and visual growth in a developing fetus. They also may have significant respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological benefits for infants, children, and adults.

Fortunately, there are several excellent dietary sources of omega-3, including "fatty" fishes such as

  • albacore tuna
  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • herring
  • lake trout
  • sardines

In addition, foods such as walnuts, soybeans, flaxseeds, and canola oil, contain alpha-linoleic acid (LNA), which the body can convert into omega-3 fatty acids.

According to current research, the benefits of omega-3s on cardiovascular health may have been overstated; however, the American Heart Association (AHA) still recommends that most people eat fatty fish at least 2 times per week. Each serving is 3.5 ounce cooked, or about 3/4 cup of flaked fish. The AHA also recommends an omega-3 supplement for patients who have coronary heart disease or high triglyceride blood levels, after checking with a qualified health care provider.

When choosing an over-the-counter omega-3 supplement, it is important to read the labels carefully. Some supplements claim a high dose of fish oil, but may not contain an adequate dose of essential omega-3s. Choose a supplement with the highest percentages of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaemoic acid (DHA).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 15 Feb 2007

Last Modified: 17 Mar 2015