Are Omega-3 Supplements Necessary?

Fish Oil Supplements With Dead Fish

“Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t see any benefit of omega-3 supplements for stopping cognitive decline,” said Emily Chew, M.D., who led a clinical trial involving over 4000 patients. Published in 2015, the results of the 5-year study were in line with several other studies which show no benefit to taking supplemental omega-3. Neal Barnard, M.D., states in his blog, "Recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Archives of Internal Medicine all found that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids does not improve heart health. Omega-3 supplements may also increase men’s risk of developing prostate cancer."

Why do We Need Omega-3?

We get omega-3 fatty acids from a-linolenic acid (ALA) which our bodies then convert into EPA and DHA. Omega-3 is used in our cell membranes, and it also helps improve circulatory and respiratory function. Omega-3 is a necessary fatty acid which our bodies cannot make internally. Omega-3 is called an "essential" fat because it is essential that we include it in our diet.

Omega-3 Sources
Most omega-3 supplements are capsules filled with fish oil. However, in addition to omega-3, fish oil contains unsafe levels of contaminants as well as unhealthy saturated fat.  So where do fish get their omega-3? They get it from plants. And so can we. Jeff Novick, MS RD LD LN, insists that if we eat "a healthy minimally processed low fat, WFPB (whole-food plant-based), low SOS (salt-oil-sugar) diet, getting in adequate omega-3" is not a problem because the body will supply itself with omega-3 as needed from the food we provide. Plant foods which are particularly rich in omega-3 include non-GMO edamame, walnuts, flax and chia seeds, black beans, cauliflower, winter squash, and dark green leafy vegetables.

The Take-home Message

Spending money on omega-3 supplements is not necessary to prevent cognitive decline nor for heart health. Instead, we should ensure that our diets include a wide variety of whole plant foods. Eating beans, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and some nuts and seeds is the best way to preserve our mental function and our cardiovascular system.

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Comments (2)

Rated 4 out of 5 based on 1 votes
  1. Jennie
  1. 4 / 5

Thankyou for an interesting read. I am very interested in boosting cognitive function through natural supplements and, indeed, through a healthy and varied diet. After my concentration started to lag due to poor sleep, I started to research anything that could possibly help. I agree with you that there is no need to take an Omega-3 supplement as there are plenty of readily available foods which are Omega rich - Edamame beans being one of my favourites! (or you could take a white kidney bean supplement) However have you considered that some supplements which boost brain and body function are not always present in food? 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is really important to the body and the brains vital functions and is not found in food in this direct form. The brain produces neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin. Both these neurotransmitters play important roles in regulating mood, sleep and especially concentration and 5-HTP can help produce these neurotransmitters. I think it can be beneficial to many people who suffer from poor concentration or disturbed sleep to take this supplement alongside a balanced and varied diet. After all, everyone needs that little boost...

Thankyou for an interesting read. I am very interested in boosting cognitive function through natural supplements and, indeed, through a healthy and varied diet. After my concentration started to lag due to poor sleep, I started to research anything that could possibly help. I agree with you that there is no need to take an Omega-3 supplement as there are plenty of readily available foods which are Omega rich - Edamame beans being one of my favourites! (or you could take a white kidney bean supplement) However have you considered that some supplements which boost brain and body function are not always present in food? 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is really important to the body and the brains vital functions and is not found in food in this direct form. The brain produces neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin. Both these neurotransmitters play important roles in regulating mood, sleep and especially concentration and 5-HTP can help produce these neurotransmitters. I think it can be beneficial to many people who suffer from poor concentration or disturbed sleep to take this supplement alongside a balanced and varied diet. After all, everyone needs that little boost every now and again I certainly feel better for it.

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  1. Linda Carney MD

Thank you very much Jenny for your reply,
I am happy for you that you feel better and that your function has been boosted.
If a person eats a Starch-Smart® diet of unprocessed whole foods, and consumes enough calories to sustain life, there will be no deficiency. The following page is an interesting read on 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP):
https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/5hydroxytryptophan-5htp
The most important message in the article is actually the first sentence which reads "5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical that the body makes from tryptophan (an essential amino acid that you get from food)."
There are many plant-based foods that provide tryptophan. Here is a page (13 pages actually) that lists MANY vegetable based sources of tryptophan:
http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-011079000000000000000-1.html
I would encourage you to adopt our Starch-Smart® System and to eat freely from the listed foods if you are concerned that your tryptophan levels may need a boost.

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  Comment was last edited about 8 months ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
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