If you want to improve your brain, and your cardiovascular function, experts agree that the most important ingredient you should add to your diet is Omega-3, an essential fatty acid.
I have been taking a triple omega (3-6-9) supplement daily for many years so when I began writing this article, I thought I knew everything about its use and benefits. I did not! I learned:
- Omega-3-6-9 supplements are not necessary and can do more harm than good.
- Many supplements contain more “junk” than beneficial fish oil
- Many supplements contain harmful and synthetic ingredients.
What are Fatty Acids?
The omega family of fatty acids are very important “good” fats for ongoing, healthy cells. Good fats are needed to keep our skin moisturized and soft, to keep inflammation at bay, and by every system and every organ in our body.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids that are needed for proper functioning of brain, muscles, digestion, reproduction, and cell division and growth. (Ref 3, 2). Omega-9 supports the immune system and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Omega-9 can be manufactured by the body but omega-3 and omega-6 cannot. When there is enough omega-3 and omega-6 available, it is produced naturally. The only way this process is successful is through dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 in the right, balanced amount.
Source of Omegas
The best source of fatty acids is from our diet because our bodies can’t manufacture omega-3 or omega-6 directly. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, shellfish, walnuts, hemp and flax seeds, egg yolks, and natto (Japanese fermented soybeans).
Although the recommended best source of omega fatty acids is by eating foods high in fatty acids, when you take warfarin, the problem with getting Omega-3 from diet is that it is difficult to maintain a consistent, daily amount. Cooking and freezing food destroys the benefits of fatty acids, so even the stated amount, is not what is ingested. Even if you eat fish every day, the levels will fluctuate based on the type of fish, the serving size, and how it is prepared.
A way to get your omegas and maintain consistent intake is to take supplements. There is no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for omega-3, but the National Institute of Health provides estimated average requirements based on age and gender. Using these guidelines, you can add a daily supplement and reap the benefits.
Omega-3 Supplements and Warfarin
For anyone with cardiovascular issues, omega fatty acids have benefits that can’t be denied. It lowers blood pressure, reduces cholesterol and plaque buildup in arteries. It also reduces the chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
Part of the reason that omega fatty acids are so beneficial is that they increase the viscosity of blood cells, making them “slippery”. This increases bleeding by preventing the formation of fibrin, which is the final step in the blood clotting process. Taking omegas will increase your INR and can easily push you out of your recommended range. Taking more than 3000 mg (3 grams) of Omega daily will increase bleeding, even for people who do not take warfarin.
Before you begin taking any supplement that will change the effectiveness of warfarin, talk with your doctor. If it is approved, additional blood tests will be required as your body gets used to taking both the supplement and Warfarin.
How to Choose a Supplement
After you decide to take a supplement, you should choose the one that is right for you. Here is what you should know before purchasing a supplement:
- The manufacturer uses a cold press process and natural sources.
- The product has been tested, the results are published, and the contents are accurately reflected on the label.
- The product does not contain harmful side effects from contaminated fish, mercury, synthetic ingredients, or artificial additives.
- Each serving contains at least 1000 mg but less than 3000 mg of fish oil.
Dr. Philip Oubre, a doctor in Austin Texas, places a strong focus on nutrition in his practice. He discusses how to choose a quality supplement in his video, “How to choose Fish Oil products wisely”
How Much to Take?
Dr. Philip Oubre recommends taking 2000 mg of Omega-3 daily. Never take more than 3 grams of fish oil without supervision by a doctor (1). When you take too much omega-3, in addition to slowed clotting (increased bleeding), it will increase inflammation, which, in itself can contribute to many chronic illnesses. Additional negative side effects of high doses include increased sugar levels; low blood pressure; stroke; weight gain (low doses help weight loss), and insomnia (low to moderate doses can increase sleep quality) (2).
Weighing in on Triple Omega Supplements
Do you need a triple Omega (3-6-9) supplement? Experts indicate that you don’t.
Although triple omega supplements have the right balance of each of the fatty acids, the general opinion is that omega-6 and omega-9 supplementation is unnecessary. In a typical diet, we consume more than enough omega-6. This comes from soybean oil, which is a component of most processed foods, including crackers, granola bars, and most baked goods. Omega-9 supplementation is not necessary because our bodies manufacture it from omega-3 and omega-6. If you take an omega-3-6-9 supplement it will disrupt your body’s fatty acid balance and increase inflammation. (4)
If you decide to supplement with Omega-3, do your research first. You should consider the following:
- Before taking any supplement that can cause an increase in bleeding, check with your doctor so your INR can be monitored as your body adjusts.
- When taking any supplement that changes the effectiveness of Coumadin® (Warfarin) take the same amount, consistently, every day.
- Use the National Institute of Health estimated average requirements to determine the amount. Never take more than 3 grams (3000 mcg) daily.
- Only purchase supplements that are made from pure sources and are preserved correctly so the maintain freshness. Buy them from companies that allow independent testing and publish the results. Use a service such as Consumer Reports or computerlabs.com to find out the quality before you purchase.
- Do not take omega-3 supplements if they smell like fish. This indicates oxidation and rancidity. Oxidized oils combat the benefits of “good” oils, including Omega-3.