Omega-3 Benefits and Deficiency Symptoms: Why You Need This Essential Fatty Acid

Are you experiencing one or more of the top 10 omega-3 deficiency symptoms? Read on to discover how to use omega-rich foods or omega-3 supplements to improve your health.

omega-3

Great source of omega-3 fatty acids: cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardine, and (pictured here) halibut. Don't like fish? Make sure you get olive oil, flaxseed, and nuts in your diet, and take omega-3 supplements to fill the void if needed.

© Gaurav Masand | Dreamstime

The one supplement most experts recommend to almost everyone—no matter your age, height, weight, or gender—is omega-3 fatty acids. Because of their wide-ranging health benefits, omega-3 supplements are the closest thing we have to a miracle pill. But why? Simply put, omega-3 fatty acids are essential.

The body can synthesize most of the fats it needs from your diet; however, omega-3s are different. They’re considered “essential” fatty acids because the human body requires them for good health but cannot make them on its own. That is, the only way to obtain omega 3s is to get them from our food. And yet, our SAD (Standard American Diet) is almost devoid of this critical nutrient.

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Omega-3 Deficiency and Chronic Health Problems

Chronic degenerative diseases don’t develop overnight. An insidious process occurs when the body is subjected to inadequate nutrients over a long period of time. In this case, months or even years of omega-3 deficiency can lead to one or more chronic health conditions—arthritis, heart disease, dementia, and even certain types of cancer.

The key is to recognize and reverse the symptoms of omega-3 deficiency before a serious illness ensues. So, what are the symptoms of a lack of omega-3? And, more important, do you have any of the symptoms?

10 Omega-3 Deficiency Symptoms

  1. Soft, peeling, or brittle nails (or slow-growing nails)
  2. Attention deficit, restlessness, poor concentration, or poor memory (in children and adults)
  3. Depression, anxiety, or mood swings
  4. Dry, flaky, cracking, or callused skin
  5. >Dry eyes
  6. Dehydration, thirst, dry mouth/throat, or frequent urination
  7. Dry, dull, or brittle hair (also dandruff or “cradle cap”)
  8. Stiff or painful joints
  9. Excessive ear wax
  10. Allergy symptoms (eczema, asthma, hay fever, hives, etc.)

Rather than ask yourself, “What are the symptoms of a lack of omega 3?” perhaps the better question is: What are the benefits of omega-3? Evidence-based research studies support these health benefits:

  • Decrease inflammation in the body
  • Reduce anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Improve cardiovascular health (reduce triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure, raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels, prevent blood clots, and prevent plaque build-up in the arteries)
  • Reduce ADD / ADHD symptoms (improve concentration)
  • Improve eye health
  • Promote brain health during pregnancy and early life
  • Reduce memory loss (dementia symptoms and Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Improve bone and joint health
  • Promote integumentary health (reduce oil, improve skin hydration, prevent acne)

Omega-3 Types

There are three major types of omega-3 fatty acids used by the body:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Most of the ALA in our diets come from flaxseed, chia seeds, olive oil, and nuts such as walnuts. Once such foods are consumed, the body converts ALA to EPA and then to DHA.

However, EPA and DHA are the two types of omega-3s that have the most health benefits, with DHA being the most beneficial by far. DHA supports brain and mental health, improving cognition, memory, and focus. While EPA isn’t as vital as DHA, it’s still used by the body to help maintain circulatory and cardiac health. It also aids in brain health by increasing blood flow and influencing hormones.

The highest concentrations of EPA and DHA are found in cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardine, halibut, and herring, as well as other seafoods such as algae or krill, some plants, and nut oils.

Omega-3 Supplements

Attempting to get enough omega-3 from food sources can be challenging for two reasons: 1) Many people simply do not like the taste of seafood; and 2) Our modern day fish supply contains unhealthy levels of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants. As a result, many nutrition experts recommend a person get a maintenance dose of 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA (added together) on a daily basis in order to significantly reduce the risks for depression, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and other health conditions.

A few things to keep in mind when shopping for omega-3 supplements:

  • Do not consume fish oils if you take blood thinners.
  • Make sure your omega-3 fish oil is free from mercury, PCB, and other contaminants.
  • Search for a fish oil from “wild” fish rather than “farm-raised” fish.
  • Start with 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA per day; a therapeutic dose of 3,000 to 4,000 mg of EPA and DHA per day is recommended for inflammatory-related conditions.

Are you experiencing the symptoms of a lack of omega-3? If so, begin increasing your consumption of this essential fatty acid via your diet or omega-3 supplements. Don’t wait any longer! You can prevent a wide range of deleterious health effects in your future by starting to reverse your omega-3 deficiency symptoms now.

Hungry for more? Read “Know Your Fats: Balancing Your 3-6-9 Omega Ratio.”

References:
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[2] Clin Transl Med. 2017 Dec;6(1):25.
[3] Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013 Sep;22(5):438-47.
[4] Eur J Pharmacol. 2016 Aug 15;785:165-173.
[5] Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Jul;23(7):636-44.
[6] Fitoterapia. 2017 Sep 28;123:51-58. 
[7] Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2013 May-Jun; 17(3): 422–429.
[8] J Atten Disord. 2014 Nov 5.
[9] Lancet. 2012 May 5;379(9827):1728-38.
[10] Lipids. 2013 Apr;48(4):319-32.
[11] Med Hypotheses. 2014 May;82(5):522-8.
[12] Nat Clin Pract Neurol. 2009 Mar;5(3):140-52.
[13] Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Jul 25. 
[14] Nutr Diabetes. 2014 Oct; 4(10): e139.
[15] Nutrition. 2015 Feb;31(2):261-75.
[16] Oncotarget. 2017 Mar 14;8(11):17908-17920.
[17] Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014; 2014: 313570.

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Comments
  • Think I may have this deficiency. Was on basically a meat diet for approximately 7 months. Do you know how long it takes to recover from this. I was trying vitamin and mineral supplements before I found the link to omega 3 deficiency. It’s like they are doing the opposite intended effect, making the symptoms worse, according to each vitamins mechanism of action. I see the same effects to different body parts depending on which vitamin or mineral I take. It is ALL exacerbated by vitamin K intake. That’s the whole reason I have been avoiding all of these other foods. I was taking methylcobalamin at first and that made everything ten times worse. Once I came off of that, the majority of the symptoms backed off immensely. Then I was taking vitamin D this whole time also. It has high omega 6 soybean oil which also makes the deficiency symptoms worse by compounding the problem. I just figured that out a few days ago. I’m eating high omega 3 salmon steaks to try to get me more balanced and cutting back on all of the high omega 6 meats like pork loin. This has been a total nightmare. I have been to the ER 25+ times since September 2017 trying to get help. This is March 2018. No one could figure this out. My neuro even referred me to Mayo and they bailed because I can’t afford to pay. I had heart cath, multiple MRIs, CTs of the brain and abdomen, tons of X-rays, EGD, etc. and no one got it. And I told everyone I saw, I CAN’T hardly eat anything but meat because the vitamin K made all the symptoms much worse and folate to a much lesser extent. I have lost 55 lbs since September. Because of eating so much meat, I apparently have excess uric acid in urine which comes with foam and white specks in the water. I had to figure THAT out by myself also. They just checked for protein, found none and said, don’t know what to tell ya.I had to see ophthalmologist a few weeks ago because of red, dry eyes and vision blurring off and on. They blamed it on thyroid storm, which I did have. It’s been bouncing from .44 to 11 since September. But I believe THIS is very likely what’s causing it. My skin has aged like 30 years since September, dry and flaky. And very thin now. I just developed tinnitus two weeks ago. That is very likely from the vitamin and mineral imbalances from the way I have had to eat. Parasthesia that came out of nowhere that no one could explain. At the worst, when on the B12, I was waking to tachycardia every single morning and then throughout the day, especially upon standing. Only sleeping 2-3 hours a day. High blood pressure, which has settled down to normal now. Have a cardiologist and an electrophysiologist now, the latter of which is talking about ablation for the abnormal heart rhythms (PVCs, SVTs, bigeminy, sinus tachycardia – those were going on when I was on the holter monitor {and also the methylB12}) So, I’m just wondering how long should you expect for the body to return to normal? How much omega 3 to consume daily to get your genes to play nice again? Total nightmare, especially when no one recognizes this.

  • Ever since I was a kid I hated sea food and the smell of fish makes me run to my room, and so as a result I’ve been avoiding seafood my whole life, (I’m 26) but I’ve been experienced what I suspect are omega 3 deficiency symptoms lately. I will add an omega 3 supplement to my daily supplement regime and will see what happens. Does anyone have any omega 3 supplement recommendations?

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