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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How much omega-3 fats do you need?

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    Nicole Senior

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    I'm an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist, consultant, author, speaker and food and health enthusiast. I love talking and writing about food and health.(please note, … View Profile

    In general, we all should be aiming to eat around 500mg of long chain omega-3 fats (like those in fish) each day. This amount is thought to provide for our physiological needs as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This amount can be provided by eating 2 oily fish meals per week. Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and herring (and canned varieties are a convenient opion). If you already have coronary heart disease (for example you have previously had a heart attack, or you take medication for angina),then the scientific evidence suggests you need to have 1g (1000mg) of long chain omega-3 fats each day to reduce your risk of having a heart attack. While it is possible to obtain this amount in the diet, it is quite challenging and therefore a fish oil supplement can help make up the shortfall. Check fish oil capsules for the actual omega-3 fats content (DHA, EPA) to ensure you reach the 1g a day target. A typical 1g fish oil capsule only contains around 360mg of long chain omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA). Much higher doses of fish oil (up to 4000mg long chain omega-3 fats) are also used to lower triglyceride levels (another harmful fat in the blood), however this must be supervised by a health professional as it may require adjustment of blood thinning medications (eg warfarin). Remember you can also top up your omega-3 fat intake with lean red meat, high-omega eggs and foods that have omega-3 added, such as some brands of milk, frozen fish products and deli meats.

    You may have heard of another kind of omega-3 in plant foods such as canola, linseeds and walnuts. This is short chain omega-3, or ALA, and is also needed for good health but it's not the same as long chain omega-3 and you need to eat both.

    You can read more about omega-3 fats and the heart from the Heart Foundation here http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition-facts/Pages/seafood.aspx

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