Benefits of Omega-3 Supplements 2022: COVID-19, Heart Health and Knee Pain

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning you must get them from the food you eat, as your body can’t make them. They’ve been associated with numerous health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, reduced inflammation, and improved mood (Trusted SourceTrusted SourceTrusted Source).

Fish oil and flaxseed oil each contain an impressive amount of omega-3 fatty acids. The main types of omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (Trusted Source).

On the other hand, flaxseed oil contains the omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) (Trusted Source). Flaxseed oil also contains linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Linoleic acid and arachidonic acid (AA) are the Omega-6 fatty acids that have been found to possess potential cancer protective properties. The human body converts linoleic acid into GLA (Gamma-Linoliec Acid), and the latter get converted into AA.

EPA and DHA are predominantly found in animal foods like fatty fish, while ALA is mostly found in plants.

However, ALA isn’t biologically active and needs to be converted to EPA and DHA to be used for something other than just stored energy like other types of fat (Trusted Source).

While ALA is still an essential fatty acid, EPA and DHA are linked to many more health benefits (Trusted Source). Additionally, the conversion process from ALA to EPA and DHA is quite inefficient in humans (Trusted Source). For example, one study found that only 5% of ALA is converted to EPA and less than 0.5% of ALA is converted to DHA in adults (Trusted Source).

EPA and DHA can reduce inflammation, which causes swelling and pain. Research has indicated that both acids might suppress the body’s immune system. However, a 2016 study suggests that DHA might enhance immune function instead. DHA is more effective at reducing inflammation than EPA, but both have a role.

Omega-3 and COVID-19

Check out the evidence tracker on Omega 3 and COVID-19 from (constantly updated).

Omega-3 is also part of the I-Recover treatment protocol for Long Haul or Post-COVID syndrome, launched on June 16, 2021 by the FLCCC (Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance). 

pilot study (Jan 2021) suggests that patients with the most omega-3s in their system were 75% less likely to die from COVID-19. The pilot study was conducted using blood drawn from 100 patients treated for COVID-19 at the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The postulated mechanism of action is the well known anti inflammatory role of higher omega-3 levels, which may helped quell the so-called 'cytokine storm' observed in some severe and/or fatal COVID-19 cases.

This protection may have come from the effect EPA and DHA have on the body. An opinion paper published in June 2020 in the journal Frontiers in Physiology expounded on how "EPA and DHA supplementation can alter many biological pathways which may have a direct influence in the outcome of COVID-19."(Front. Physiol., 19 June 2020) The writers listed the many nutrients that play a key role in managing a cytokine storm and continued:

"Among these micronutrients, LC-PUFAs (long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids) such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are noteworthy because of their direct influence in the immunological response to viral infections.

Among these complex immunomodulatory effects, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-1ß (IL-1β)—because of the suspected central regulatory role in the "cytokine storm"—should be highlighted."

The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) modulate inflammatory processes in the body through a variety of mechanisms (RefRef). Severe acute viral respiratory infections can sometimes trigger cytokine storm, in which excessive production of inflammatory cytokines leads to uncontrolled systemic inflammation and life-threatening tissue and organ damage. Another phenomenon, called eicosanoid storm, has also been proposed to contribute to widespread inflammation, tissue damage, and organ failure. Eicosanoid storm is characterized by excessive production of pro-inflammatory and procoagulant eicosanoids made from arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid synthesized in the body and obtained from dietary animal fat (RefRef). By competing with arachidonic acid for metabolic enzymes, EPA and DHA decrease the production of pro-inflammatory and procoagulant eicosanoids and increase production of specialized inflammation-resolving compounds (RefRef).

Accumulating evidence shows omega-3 fatty acids, administered orally or intravenously, may help control inflammation and improve outcomes in critically ill patients, including those with ARDS.489 A meta-analysis of 12 randomized controlled trials with a total of 1,280 critically ill patients with ARDS found supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, in combination with gamma-linolenic acid (a less-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid) and antioxidants, improved markers of lung function; however, only hourly administration, rather than large bolus intravenous dosing, was associated with reduced mortality. Although reductions in mechanical ventilation and length of stay in intensive care were seen, these effects did not reach statistical significance (Ref).

An observational study in 100 patients hospitalized with a severe acute viral respiratory illness found higher levels of EPA plus DHA were associated with lower mortality, though the effect was not statistically significant, possibly due to the small number of participants (Ref). During an outbreak of a severe viral respiratory infection, another study found countries with the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids from marine sources had lower mortality rates than other regions of the world (Ref). The same research group used computer modeling to show how omega-3 fatty acids might bind to the highly infectious virus and interfere with its ability to enter cells (Ref).

That are more than a dozen studies on-going that examine the effect of EPA and/or DHA on the prevention of or lessening of symptoms of COVID-19.

Evidence suggests the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA affect biological pathways that may have direct influence in the outcome of COVID-19.

EPA and DHA have a direct influence in the immunological response to viral infections and can modulate immune response and function.

Animal-based omega-3 fats, especially DHA, also help prevent thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel) by decreasing platelet aggregation. Hypercoagulation is another complication of severe COVID-19 infection that can have lethal consequences.

Omega-3 also lowers your risk of lung dysfunction, protects against lung damage and secondary bacterial infections, and improves mitochondrial function.

Research shows that by lowering triglycerides, the risk of developing a cytokine storm is diminished. Omega-3 supplementation is known to lower triglycerides, but krill oil does so more effectively than fish oil.

The British Rhinological Society's Guidelines for the Management of New Onset Loss of Sense of Smell During the COVID-19 Pandemic advises that that fish oil supplementation (2,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids/day) may be beneficial when used in addition to standard treatment (olfactory training, oral steroids and steroid rinses) (Hopkins, Clin Otolaryngol 2020). This position is not based on a clinical trial of fish oil in COVID-19 patients but on limited animal and human research suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial for loss of smell due to olfactory nerve damage.

An interesting development published in Science, Nov 2020 revealed that linoleic acid (omega-6) binds with the 'spike protein' of the COVID-19 virus and interferes with the entrance of the virus into a human cell via the ACE-2 receptors. The study also revealed that in human cells, Linoleic Acid supplementation synergizes with the COVID-19 drug remdesivir in suppressing SARS-CoV-2 replication.

Omega-3 and Heart Health

Omega-3 and Heart Health

Omega-3s - particularly EPA and DHA - are important for overall health, including heart health. Most people do not get enough EPA and CHA omega-3s, and new research suggests you may need even more than you think.

According to the research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in September 2020, EPA and DHA supplementation is associated with a reduced risk of:
  • Fatal Heart Attack - 35%
  • Heart Attack (myocardial infarction)- 13%
  • Risk of death form Coronary Heart Disease - 9%
Your goal should be to take at least 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA per day. Dietary / Food supplements, prescription omega-3s and eating fish regularly will help you meet this goal.

Omega-3 and Knee Pain

EPA and DHA can reduce inflammation, which causes swelling and pain. Research has indicated that both acids might suppress the body’s immune system. However, a 2016 study suggests that DHA might enhance immune function instead. DHA is more effective at reducing inflammation than EPA, but both have a role.

All of these effects makes fish oil potentially beneficial for people with arthritis.

For the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil to work against arthritis, it’s necessary to consume a fairly large quantity of it each day. Fish oil — or cod liver oil — enclosed in capsules makes this fairly easy.

On the other hand, because cod liver oil contains very high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin D, taking too much can be toxic. For the purpose of treating arthritis, fish oil is the safer choice.


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