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Omega-3 fatty acids are safe at high doses

July 5, 2011

ccording to a new Norwegian review, eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid show no negative health effects up to a dosage of 6.9 g/day.

In the study, the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety reviewed relevant publications between 2000 and 2009 to analyze the potential negative health effects of omega-3 fatty acids from food supplements and fortified foods in humans (1). In a systematic search through the literature, prolonged bleeding times were recorded for coronary heart disease patients on anti-coagulant medication after consuming of 6.9 g/day eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). However, no negative health effects regarding bleeding complication in connection with EPA and DHA supplementations were reported. In addition, the clinical relevance of the reported low-grade effects on lipid peroxidation at 3.5 g/day, inflammation at 5 g/day and gastrointestinal disturbances at 6 g/day was unclear.

The researchers concluded that based on the reviewed literature, it would not be possible to clearly identify adverse effects from EPA and/or DHA, which could be used for setting tolerable upper intake levels. Furthermore they suggested that an intake below the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) intake recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids may not be enough to gain the possible benefits for neurodevelopment and prevention of coronary disease. The EFSA recommends intakes of 250 mg/day DHA for adults to maintain normal vision, for example, and 250 mg/day of EPA and DHA for the heart to function properly.

Regarding the intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the Norwegian population, scientists noted that the main source of EPA and DHA for those who eat little or no fish would have to be food supplements. They also pointed out that average intakes of EPA and DHA in different age groups range between 0.1–0.6 g/day without supplements and 0.3–0.9 g/day with supplements, furthermore, EPA and DHA intakes among children are low.

References

  1. Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety/Vitenskapskomiteen for mattrygghet (VKM): Evaluation of negative and positive health effects of n-3 fatty acids as constituents of food supplements and fortified foods. Opinion of the Steering Committee of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety, Doc.no.: 08-707-final, 28.06.2011.