Can You Get Too Much Omega 3 Fatty Acid?

Late­ly, many peo­ple have been claim­ing that fish is health food. The Amer­i­can Heart Asso­ci­a­tion and the Amer­i­can Dia­betes Asso­ci­a­tion urge peo­ple to eat fish. Yet if peo­ple fol­low that advice, they’ll still be at risk for heart dis­ease and dia­betes and they might increase their risk for can­cer. The omega 3 fat­ty acids in fish oil can end up in the fat­ty deposits that clog people’s arter­ies. Like oth­er fats, they pro­mote insulin resis­tance. Also, eat­ing too much omega 3 fat­ty acid could pro­mote can­cer by sup­press­ing the immune sys­tem.

Weight Problems

Fats are fat­ten­ing, and all fats seem to be equal­ly fat­ten­ing. Each gram of fat pro­vides 9 calo­ries. It doesn’t mat­ter whether the fat is sat­u­rat­ed, monoun­sat­u­rat­ed, or polyun­sat­u­rat­ed. If you don’t know which kind of fat is which, click here.

Switch­ing from type of fat to anoth­er won’t help you lose weight. If you want to have less fat in your body, put less fat in your mouth.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 dia­betes is the body’s des­per­ate attempt to avoid fur­ther weight gain. The high blood sug­ar lev­els in peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes result from insulin resis­tance. In oth­er words, their bod­ies don’t respond nor­mal­ly to the hor­mone insulin. Sci­en­tists have known since the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry that this prob­lem results from a high-fat diet. The same prob­lem occurs in peo­ple who are con­sum­ing too much fat from eat­ing fish and olive oil.

Clogged Arteries

All three types of fat—saturated, monoun­sat­u­rat­ed, and polyunsaturated—can lead to ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, which is the buildup of crud inside your arter­ies. Switch­ing from sat­u­rat­ed fat to some oth­er kind of fat doesn’t stop the prob­lem. The best way to stop the crud from build­ing up in your arter­ies is to eat much less fat (usu­al­ly <10% of calo­ries). Eat­ing less fat and cho­les­terol is the most impor­tant thing you can do to reduce your total cho­les­terol lev­els. Once your total cho­les­terol lev­els go below 150 mg/dL, your arter­ies become self-clean­ing.

Peo­ple who eat fish instead of beef do tend to have few­er heart attacks. How­ev­er, it’s because the omega 3 fat­ty acids in fish act as a blood thin­ner. Most dead­ly heart attacks start when a pim­ple of ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis in one of the heart’s coro­nary arter­ies bursts and caus­es a blood clot. Blood thin­ners reduce the abil­i­ty of the blood to form clots. Tak­ing blood thin­ners reduces a person’s risk of dying of a blood clot in the heart or brain. How­ev­er, it increas­es the person’s risk of bleed­ing to death after a car acci­dent. It also increas­es the person’s risk of destruc­tive or dead­ly bleed­ing into the brain (hem­or­rhag­ic stroke).


Most peo­ple think of fat as a calo­rie source, as fuel. How­ev­er, the body uses some kinds of fats as raw mate­ri­als for mak­ing oth­er kinds of things. The body uses omega 6 and omega 3 fat­ty acids to make sub­stances that help to reg­u­late the immune sys­tem.

Your body needs small amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fat­ty acids, which must come from your food. How­ev­er, eat­ing too much of these essen­tial fat­ty acids can sup­press the immune sys­tem. This leaves the body less able to defend itself against virus­es, bac­te­ria, par­a­sites, and can­cer.

Getting Just Enough Fat

For most peo­ple, the best pol­i­cy is to keep fat intake to a min­i­mum. The trace amounts of fats found in veg­eta­bles and unre­fined starch­es eas­i­ly meet most people’s fat require­ments.

Your body can make all of the sat­u­rat­ed fat and monoun­sat­u­rat­ed fat that it needs. You don’t need to get any sat­u­rat­ed or monoun­sat­u­rat­ed fat at all from your food. There are only two kinds of fat that you need to get from your food. One is an omega 6 fat­ty acid called linole­ic acid. The oth­er is an omega 3 fat­ty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. These fat­ty acids come from plants. Even the omega 3 fat­ty acids in fish came orig­i­nal­ly from the plants at the bot­tom of the food chain.

To find peo­ple who have a real defi­cien­cy of the essen­tial fat­ty acids, you have to look at hos­pi­tal patients who were fed noth­ing but sug­ar intra­venous­ly. Even in those cas­es, the fat defi­cien­cy could be solved by rub­bing a lit­tle bit of veg­etable oil on the patient’s skin.

Peo­ple who eat a diet based on low-fat, unre­fined plant foods auto­mat­i­cal­ly get enough of both of the essen­tial fat­ty acids. If you are wor­ried about get­ting the ide­al bal­ance of omega 3 to omega 6 fat­ty acids, it’s best to keep your over­all fat intake low. You may also want to add a spoon­ful of ground flaxseed to your cere­al in the morn­ing. Flaxseed con­tains a lot of the omega 3 fat­ty acid alpha-linolenic acid. Flaxseed is also a good source of sol­u­ble fiber, as well as phy­tonu­tri­ents that seem to have an anti­cancer effect.

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