Optimal Timing for Omega-3 Supplements, as Suggested by Dietitians

Optimal Timing for Omega-3 Supplements, as Suggested by Dietitians

Supplements can fill in any gaps in your diet if there is one regarding the differences between the nutrients your body needs and what you eat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 1 in 8 middle-aged and 1 in 5 older adults now take omega-3 fatty acids regularly. This specific supplement has become a mainstay for these individuals.

Four Supplements That You Ought to Be Taking, Dietitians claim that omega-3s, which are found in fish and consist of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are an essential class of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are also present as alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) in plant oils such flaxseed, soybean, and canola oil. EPA and DHA, however, are the main ingredients in the majority of omega-3 supplement formulations because of their numerous health advantages.

“Every cell in the body contains EPA and DHA omega-3s, which are essential for supporting heart, brain, eye, and prenatal health,” explains Michelle Routhenstein, M.S., RD, CDCES, a cardiovascular dietitian and the creator of Entirely Nourished. She makes the observation that although a large number of Americans eat adequate ALA omega-3s, many do not get enough EPA and DHA. According to findings published in BMJ Open in 2021, blood levels of DHA/EPA were found to be below recommended levels in almost 95% of children and 68% of adults.

This is where taking supplements could be advantageous. However, it’s also important to consider when and how you take your medications. The degree to which your body absorbs omega-3 fatty acids can be influenced by several factors. To ensure that you get the most out of your supplement, find out how to enhance its effectiveness.

Factors Influencing Omega-3 Supplement Absorption

Kind of Omega-3 Dietary Supplement

Omega-3 supplements made from fish oil (sardines and anchovies), cod liver oil, krill oil, or algae oil are sources of EPA and DHA. Triglycerides and ethyl ester are two types of omega-3 supplements that have the potential to drastically affect the body’s absorption of these fatty acids. First, the NIH states that the body can readily absorb and use the naturally occurring triglycerides, or omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and algae oil.

However, according to Maggie Moon, M.S., RDN, a brain health nutrition specialist and author of The MIND Diet, some omega-3 supplements are converted into ethyl esters, a form that is more challenging for the body to absorb. That being said, these supplements might still be able to raise your EPA and DHA levels even though they are not as well-absorbed.

With all of this information, the best option is an omega-3 supplement in the form of triglycerides. Look at the product label for this information.

How Much Fat You’ve Eaten on a Diet

The most significant element affecting how well all types of omega-3 supplements are absorbed and work is whether or not they are taken with a meal that has fat in the diet. According to Routhenstein, this is because dietary fat “helps to facilitate the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids into the bloodstream.” However, according to Routhenstein and Moon, taking omega-3 supplements with a low-fat meal or on an empty stomach may reduce the absorption of these fatty acids and compromise the supplement’s efficacy. Consequently, it is ideal to take omega-3 supplements with meals that include fatty fish, avocado, olive oil, nuts, or seeds, or any other form of dietary fat.

When to Take Omega-3 Supplements

The good news is that the supplement can be taken at any time of day, regardless of your preference for taking it in the morning or the evening. The time of day has less of an impact on absorption than what you eat in addition to the omega-3 supplement, according to Moon. You can choose whatever time works best for you, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

For example, taking your omega-3 supplement first thing in the morning can be advantageous if you usually consume more dietary fat at breakfast than at other times. Both nutritionists clarify that you may have digestive discomfort in addition to absorbing less of the supplement if you miss breakfast and take it on an empty stomach.

Depending on your eating patterns, it can also make sense to take your omega-3 with dinner. “Since dinner is typically the largest meal of the day for Americans, there’s a greater likelihood that it will contain enough fat to facilitate the body’s absorption of omega-3 supplements,” according to Moon. Heartburn is one possible adverse effect of taking omega-3 supplements, and when you lie down to sleep, the symptoms may get worse. If so, nighttime might not be the best time for you.

The ideal time to take an omega-3 supplement is ultimately when you’ll remember to do so, be able to take it with a fat-containing meal, and feel well thereafter. It could require some trial and error, but don’t be scared to adjust things until you find a time that works.

Professional Suggestions for Omega-3 Supplements

According to experts, eating a meal that includes dietary fat is the ideal time to take an omega-3 supplement. To guarantee a balanced intake of all three omega-3 fatty acids, Moon advises taking your supplement with omega-3-rich meals, such as plant-based sources like walnuts with ALA and sustainable seafood like anchovies that contain EPA and DHA.

Routhenstein continues, “Original omega-3 levels require consistency.” According to a 2023 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, taking omega-3 supplements regularly for at least 12 weeks at doses higher than 1,000 mg/day resulted in a considerable increase in omega-3 fatty acid levels. It is crucial to pick a time that you can stick to and won’t forget.

The Final Word

While there are a few elements that affect how well omega-3 supplements are absorbed, scheduling your dose to coincide with a meal that includes dietary fat is the most crucial factor. You will have a higher chance of experiencing the numerous heart, brain, and vision health advantages linked to omega-3 consumption if you take this action. However, make sure to speak with your medical team to ascertain whether you actually need to take supplements before stockpiling omega-3s.

Sanchita Patil

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