Omega3 Supplements as a Piece of a Personalized Vitamin Routine
Everyone seems to be taking Omega3, commonly known as Fish Oil supplements, but there is good reason to ask if this should be a widespread practice or personalized to individual needs. While there is some scientific evidence to support the use of Omega3 supplements, this evidence is very limited to certain health and lifestyle profiles. The mass market retailers would have you think that everyone needs to take Omega3s. They are heavily marketed, frequently featured as endcap items in the store, and there are a vast array of brands and dosage levels available. The media contributes to this frenzy with stories about celebrities recommending Omega3s or citing them as a part of their daily vitamin routine. So, how do you know if they are right for you?
There is an emerging market sector of personalized vitamin companies that will do an upfront assessment and will recommend Omega3s if they align with your personal profile. These companies host digital surveys on their websites that ask questions about your diet, fitness, health, and lifestyle, and they use this information to tabulate your daily vitamin needs. However, there is certainly a range of credibility and science between these companies. You need to investigate the company founders/management team and determine if they have appropriate scientific credentials and expert authority. You should also read reviews to see what other customers have to say about the product. In some cases, these companies will assign a handful of daily pills in a pill pack. It is often tough to keep up with a vitamin routine with 10 or more pills and powders, so this format may impede your ability to sustain your fidelity to the Omega3 supplement. Not to mention that pill packs can be difficult for many customers to afford, not infrequently reaching levels of $100 or more per month. Other personalized vitamin companies will design a custom daily multivitamin, which is easier to manage in conjunction with an Omega3 supplement. It cuts down on the total pill load and cost. It is far superior to take an Omega3 based on the outcome of an assessment as compared to self-experimentation and “do it yourself” pill cocktails formulated in the vitamin aisles.
Targeted Uses of Omega3s
The value of Omega3s to heart health are grounded in the evidence. There have been a number of large scale studies showing benefit of Omega3s. While Omega3s are not known to be helpful in lowering LDL or “bad cholesterol,” they actually are good at reducing the other “bad type of cholesterol,” triglycerides and in raising HDL or good cholesterol. Modifying these components of your cholesterol profile (also helped by losing weight and exercising) are tremendous ways to reduce your overall cardiac risk. The “controversy” stems from some studies that did not prove a reduction in cardiac risk, but they were studies with limitations. They followed people for a short period of time and while the group as a whole didn’t show great risk reduction when taking Omega3s, certain subsets showed major impact, such as African Americans who had a 77 % cardiac risk reduction. Since this is a group with an elevated baseline risk of cardiac risk it may be that studying this population showed an exaggerated effect. Nonetheless, this is promising for the role of Omega 3s in lowering risk of heart attack and stroke. Another study showed that adding Omega3s to traditional cholesterol medicines helped to further reduce cardiac mortality. Clearly, there is some degree of association between Omega3s and improved heart health. There is also some data to suggest that Omega3s may have blood pressure lowering effects. This remains inconclusive, but it may also contribute to the potential benefits on cardiovascular health.
Why else should you take Omega3s? Their benefits extend beyond cardiac risk reduction to other areas. There is a preponderance of data suggesting that Omega3s benefit brain health in several ways. They have been demonstrated to help control ADD symptoms in children. On the other end of the spectrum, Omega3s may show some role in ameliorating memory trouble and dementia. Omega3s seem to have some positive effect on brain function. Some experts speculate that these important fats may help enhance the function of nerve cells. We may not understand the exact mechanism, but we do know that Omega3s help brain function and these positive effects bolster the case for taking them.
Another important role for Omega3s is in pregnancy and nursing. Like how Omega3s many help with memory and behavior in kids and adults, they also seem to help with a developing baby’s brain. Any prenatal routine should include Omega3s as an essential component for women who are nursing. Whatever supportive influence Omega3s and fish oil have on our brains seems to also play an important role in the developing brain so much so that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology insist on Omega3s for all pregnant and breast feeding mothers. From this we can extrapolate that the effects of fish oil and Omega3 on memory and brain health in adults is probably also significant and they can be used with hopes of reducing risk of dementia and to preserve memory. Omega 3s not only help with prenatal brain health. They also can reduce preterm birth rates, which is positive outcome.
If Omega3s help with memory, brain health and heart health, it is also not surprising that these properties help other body systems as well. It seems that Omega3s may assist with many of these things because their anti-inflammatory properties. Not surprisingly, fish oil and Omega3s have a role in helping with joint pain and arthritis. These anti-inflammatory properties can help relieve arthritis pain by reducing inflammation and reducing the need for other medication in those with arthritis. It has also been shown that they may also help reduce dry eyes.
There is some promising data to suggest that Omega3s may be helpful in the prevention of colon and breast cancer. While this is early in scientific investigation, taking Omega3s seems to have many potential benefits.
Are there any side effects to Omega3s? Yes, there can be unwanted effects. Omega3s pose a theoretical risk of increased bleeding (there blood thinning characteristics may be part of how they help reduce cardiovascular risk). It is recommended to stop them 7-10 days prior to surgical procedures. In day to day life, bleeding risk from Omega3s is not commonly seen.
The other potential downsides to Omega3s are namely GI side effects. People can experience a range of issues including upset stomach, burping and diarrhea on a periodic basis. However, in the medical experience, starting with a high quality Omega3 product, most people can acclimate to taking these supplements by taking a lower dose for a few weeks and gradually working up to a full dose. What about Omega 3s causing fishy after taste? It turns out that this is only an issue with a fish-based product. Taking a vegan Omega3 made from algae can solve this issue. Algal oil is a common source of Omega3 fatty acids.
Determine your Omega3 fit with a Personalized Vitamin Assessment
As a next step, you can investigate personalized vitamin companies that offer an Omega3 supplement, ideally a vegan option made from algal oil or other plant-based source. Complete your online personalized vitamin assessment to determine if your profile warrants the daily use of an Omega3. In many cases, it is not necessary to take an Omega3 if you are taking a well-balanced multivitamin that can help with many of the same issues an Omega3. In select instances, such as pregnancy or heart health risk, an Omega3 might be recommended on top of a multivitamin or other supplement. It is always advisable to check with your physician or provider to determine if the recommendations are consistent with their view of your needs. There are pockets of strong evidence for daily Omega3 use, but it is not supported as a holistic solution for most of the population. A personalized vitamin company, with a strong medical grounding, will help you navigate the evidence to find the right fit for your health and lifestyle.