Is it possible to have side effects from Omega 3, or an overdose?
There is no doubt about the health benefits of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids. However there are many pharmaceuticals on the market which have many health benefits, but which also come with unwanted side-effects, some of which may, in some cases, affect your health negatively.
And in some cases the side effects of taking various drugs can be as bad, if not worse, than the original condition. Does this apply to taking Omega 3 supplements? Or in other words can you take too much Omega 3 to the point where your health is affected negatively? Or are there serious health side-effects from taking the recommended dose?
As we said, many drugs come with serious side-effects. However they also confer significant health benefits as well, and so it’s not just a matter of considering the negative health side-effects from taking the drug, it’s also a matter of balancing the good with the bad, in other words the positive health benefits with the negative.
And a new study undertaken by the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety at the Request of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority has considered this very question. What are the positive and the negative health effects from taking Omega 3 foods supplements or from Omega 3 in fortified foods?
The study noted that there was a range of beneficial health effects from taking more Omega 3 essential fatty acids into the diet. It also notes that the principle health benefit of a greater intake of the Omega 3 fats is a reduction in “the risk of cardiovascular events and mortality”, in other words you’re less likely to have cardiovascular disease or to die from it.
Of course this is not the only health benefit from the essential fatty acids, however this is such a significant health benefit that on its own it would be very worthwhile.
So clearly the study has found a very significant benefit to taking Omega 3 supplements or increasing your intake of the essential fatty acids in other ways, for example by eating more fish.
So what are the negative health consequences? In other words what are the side-effects?
The study noted that a number of minor negative health effects have been identified with increased intake of EPA and DHA. However these potential side effects are minimal, and only occur at very high doses. The study observed that “The evidence presented in this evaluation show that it is possible to obtain positive health effects in the Norwegian population from intake of EPA and DHA, including from food supplements, without any appreciable risk of negative or adverse health effects.”
It would seem therefore that when you consider the positive health benefits, and in particular a reduction in the risk of death from heart attack or cardiovascular event, when compared with a negative health consequences, which are minimal, there are powerful reasons for making sure you have enough Omega 3 essential fatty acids in your diet.
The study also examined the effects of taking ALA as well as EPA and DHA. As we have indicated previously ALA is the form of Omega 3 found in plants whereas EPA and DHA is the form of Omega 3 found in fish.
Most Omega 3 fortified foods are fortified with ALA, not EPA and DHA. And here is what the Norwegian study said about ALA. “This evaluation has shown that given a Western diet, the positive health effects are linked to EPA and DHA and not ALA”.
This might cause you to reconsider whether or not you are getting significant health benefits from Omega 3 fortified foods, fortified with ALA. To find out more read our article about Omega 3 fortified foods.
Read the Norwegian study here.
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