Omega-3 Acids: Types, Benefits, Uses, Precautions, And More

Medically reviewed by Maria Sarino, MD FACT CHECKED

The body is made of a variety of cells, each with its structure and function.

One of the main components of cells, including the heart, brain, blood vessels, lungs, and sperm cells, is fats.

With our food or supplements, we get many nutrients, one of which is Omega-3s which is a type of polyunsaturated fat.

They help in the structure of the cell walls and source of energy to keep our organs working properly[1].

Burr and Burr 1929 discovered[2] omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

They grew their interest in them as these unsaturated fatty acids from the membrane of an organism’s cell, most particularly the neurons of the brain used for the flow of information between cells.

The right balance of these polyunsaturated fatty acids helps in the smooth flow of messages from neurons to neurons.

This results in good mental health for a person, with a reduction in the risk of mental disorders, Alzheimer’s, depression, etc.

The two key types of fats in the diet are omega-6 and omega-3.

Omega-3s help fight inflammation and support brain health while omega-6s help maintains normal growth and development.

In this article, we will describe omega-3 fatty acids in detail with their types and how they work in our bodies.

Our body cannot produce Omega-3 fatty acids on its own, it is required to get an adequate amount of these from the food we eat.

Fishes are known to be the best source of omega-3 fatty acids and there are a few plants also which contain them.

Types Of Omega-3 Acids

  • DHA and EPA

    Fishes contain two[3] types, DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) mostly obtained from cold-water fishes.

    For ex- Tuna, Salmon, Marlin, Bluefish, and many more.

  • ALA

    Alpha-linolenic is found in plants and nuts like- Walnuts, Flaxseeds, soybeans, Chia seeds, etc.

    They can also be high in calories, so taken in moderate amounts is prescribed.

Foods Rich In Omega-3 Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by our body on its own, the intake of them through food is required.

The rich source[4] of these is mostly known in seafood but if you don’t eat fish, you can also get it from other mentioned sources-

  • Fishes, mostly cold-water like tuna, marlin, salmon, etc
  • Seeds and nuts like walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds
  • Some foods rich in protein such as soy, eggs, yogurt, sprouts
  • Oils- soybean oils, canola oils

Omega-3 Acids Benefits

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their many health-related benefits and deficiency of these can cause scaly skin, roughness, itchy rashes, etc.

Studies show that people who eat seafood have a lower risk of chronic diseases.

Below are some more benefits-

  1. Dry Eye Problem

    It is the problem that occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough moisture and lead to discomfort and improper vision.

    The major component of the retina of our eye is DHA, the deficiency of this can be the cause of this issue.

    Omega-3 however showed improvements[5], yet before taking any of the fatty acids doctor’s prescription is required.

  2. Infant Brain And Health Development

    Some studies have shown that women who eat around 8-12 ounces of seafood per week had a slight increase in the weight of the baby and the time in the womb.

    Also, breast milk contains DHA which accounts for the retina of the eye, and polyunsaturated acids in the brain.

    There are still studies going on with more benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on infants.

    A few benefits like an increase in intelligence, a reduction in developmental delay risk, an increase in communication skills, etc.

  3. Improvement Of Heart Health

    Omega-3s help in the good[6] health of the heart and blood vessels in many ways.

    This reduces the risk of arrhythmias, which is a risk of having irregular heartbeats.

    They also decrease the build-up of plaque which contains calcium, cholesterol, and fats that block and hardens the arteries.

    For people with heart-related problems, AHA (American Heart Association) recommends eating 1 gram/day EPA+DHA or seafood one or two times a week.

    But for people who do not have any heart-related issues, these are not prescribed.

  4. Helps With Anxiety And Depression

    With the rapid going world anxiety and depression become widespread types of mental health issues.

    Symptoms of anxiety include worrying about something constantly and nervousness, while in depression you lose interest and energy in doing things.

    Among the three types of Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA is known to be best for improving depression.

    Also, you may be able to sleep better even with anxiety.

  5. Might Help In Preventing Cancer

    Some observations concluded that the intake of omega-3 fatty acids might help in reducing the risk of having breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

    It is still under study and overall conclusions not yet determined.

    But people consuming omega fatty acids have shown a lower risk of having cancer.

  6. Alzheimer’s Disease

    This problem mostly occurs in aged people when their brain shrinks and its cells die.

    This leads to memory loss and hampers the thinking skills of a person.

    As studies have already shown positive results[7] of omega-3 fatty acids on brain cells, these supplements might help in the improvement of Alzheimer’s in the mild stage.

  7. ADHD In Children

    The symptoms of ADHD shown in children are usually hyperactivity and difficulties in paying attention or controlling their impulsivity.

    Sometimes it is shown in childhood and may also last into adulthood.

    It has been noted that children with such diseases have lower[8] omega-3 fatty acids in their blood level than others of the same age group.

    As omega-3 fatty acids help pregnant women to keep their babies healthy, after birth they might also be useful for them to keep their good mental health.

  8. Beneficial For Skin

    Omega-3 fatty acids help the skin to be moisturized which in turn prevents it from dryness, itchiness, and redness.

    It has also been experienced by people that eating flaxseeds, and chia seeds daily improve skin function and help in increasing the hydration of the body.

    It has also been observed that people having skin diseases like psoriasis and dermatitis have less dryness and irritation in their skin as it helps in moisture and hydration of the skin.

How Much Omega-3 Acids Does A Body Need?

The level of these depends on the age and sex of a body and for different levels of age groups, the amount varies from 0.5g to 1.5g.

If you have some heart disease then your prescriber might recommend you to have supplements of EPA and DHA every day.


As these fatty acids are not produced by our body, taking them in the proper amount only is beneficial.

They must be taking dietary supplements and one should always consult their healthcare advisor before taking it in the form of any oil or capsule.

FDA (Food and Drug Administration) advised having a maximum of only 3 grams a day for an adult, while there are still variations by different authorities.

Excess to these may lead to the following problems-

  • Risk of a bleeding disorder, so people already having or taking medication related to bleeding disorders including aspirin, Plavix, etc should always consult someone.
  • Diabetic patients should also be careful as these fatty acids may increase the level of sugar in the blood.
    If you are taking medication such as glyburide, glipizide, or insulin to lower blood sugar levels then you must ask your doctor for the amount to be taken.
  • If you are going to have any kind of surgery then your supervisor may ask you to stop taking any supplement of these fatty acids 1 or 2 weeks before as they can cause blood thinning.
  • One should always read the instructions mentioned on the bottles and listen to what their prescribers suggested.


  1. 7 Things To Know About Omega-3 Fatty Acids Available from:
  2. Arthur A Spector, Hee-Yong Kim Discovery of essential fatty acids 2015 Jan;56(1):11-21. doi: 10.1194/jlr.R055095. Epub 2014 Oct 22. Available from:
  3. Danielle Swanson, Robert Block, and Shaker A. Mousa Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life 2012 Jan; 3(1): 1–7. Published online 2012 Jan 5. doi: 10.3945/an.111.000893
  4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids August 4, 2021 Available from:
  5. Aihua Liu and Jian Ji Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids Therapy for Dry Eye Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Studies 2014; 20: 1583–1589. Published online 2014 Sep 6. doi: 10.12659/MSM.891364
  6. Clemens von Schacky, William S Harris Cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids 2007 Jan 15;73(2):310-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cardiores.2006.08.019. Epub 2006 Sep 1. Available from:
  7. Scheine Canhada, Kamila Castro, Ingrid Schweigert Perry et al. Omega-3 fatty acids’ supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease: A systematic review 2018 Oct;21(8):529-538. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1321813. Epub 2017 May 3. Available from:
  8. Donna Gillies, John Kh Sinn, Sagar S Lad et al. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents 2012 Jul 11;2012(7):CD007986. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007986.pub2. Available from: