Nutrition

Why Many of Us Might Not Be Getting Enough Omega-3 DHA

3 min read
Here's why you should consider a multivitamin with omega-3 DHA.
Here's why you should consider a multivitamin with omega-3 DHA.

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It’s hard to overstate the importance of Omega-3 DHA. This omega-3 fatty acid (which is short for docosahexaenoic acid) plays an important role in helping to support brain health, heart health, and eye health. That’s true for all of us, but pregnant women in particular should pay extra attention to their DHA intake.*

So in the realm of health benefits, DHA is kind of a big deal, right? Unfortunately, when it comes to getting enough of this essential nutrient, many of us may be coming up short. “The amount of omega-3 DHA Americans are getting from their diet is typically below recommended levels,” notes Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, PhD, RD, and Ritual’s Senior Director of Scientific Affairs. And that’s where knowledge—and DHA dietary supplements—can come in handy.* (2)

How much Omega-3 DHA is recommended?

While experts and health organizations agree that getting enough omega-3 fatty acids is important, there actually isn’t an established FDA reference daily intake, or RDI. That said, the consensus for most adults is to aim for 250 to 500 mg of DHA and EPA. (3)

Again, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s even more crucial that you try to meet these levels of DHA. (95% of pregnant women in the United States are not getting their recommended daily intake of DHA.)* (4,5)

That’s why our science team recommends a one-two-punch approach: Getting lots of omega-3 fatty acids in your daily diet, and taking a quality omega-3 supplement to help fill gaps.

Omega-3 DHA in your diet

It’s definitely a good idea to try including omega-3s in your daily diet. But it’s also important to note that not all omega-3 fatty acids are created equal—which can also help explain why many Americans may be falling below the recommended levels for dietary omega-3 fatty acids intake.

Alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA), for example, is found in several plant-based foods including tofu, flaxseeds, and walnuts. The catch? Our body still has to convert ALA to EPA and DHA—which only happens at a very small rate. That’s why in order to get your recommended daily omega-3 intake, it can be important to aim for a mix of all three. (1)

On the flip side, EPA and DHA are generally found in fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, and anchovies, along with eggs (in smaller amounts). If you happen to include a lot of fish in your diet, that’s great news—but if you’re vegan or vegetarian, that’s where things can get tricky. (1)

The bottom line is that while we recommend taking a food-first approach for getting omega-3s, getting enough of this nutrient through diet alone may not always be possible—which is where a quality omega-3 supplement can step in. (Spoiler: Fish oil supplements aren't always the answer.)

Omega-3 DHA in a multivitamin

Fish oil gets a lot of credit for its omega-3 content. But did you know that fish actually aren’t the original source? Fish eat phytoplankton, which eat omega-3-rich algae. That’s why we went to the bottom of the food chain and straight to the source: Ritual multivitamins are formulated with omega-3 DHA sourced from microalgae, which means they’re vegan-friendly.

Essential for Women was also shown in a university-led clinical trial to improve omega-3 DHA levels by 41% over 12 weeks, compared to no change in a placebo group. A multivitamin that’s vegan-certified and clinical-backed? That’s an omega-3 solution we can get behind.

References:

  1. “Office of Dietary Supplements - Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health
  2. Papanikolaou, Yanni, et al. “U.S. Adults Are Not Meeting Recommended Levels for Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake: Results of an Analysis Using Observational Data from NHANES 2003–2008.” Nutrition Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, Feb. 2014, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-31.
  3. “Interim Summary of Conclusions and Dietary Recommendations on Total Fat & Fatty Acids.” World Health Organization, Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Fats and Fatty Acids in Human Nutrition , Nov. 2008. Retrieved from WHO
  4. Fats and fatty acids in human nutrition. (2014, April 4). Retrieved from World Health Organization
  5. USUAL NUTRIENT INTAKE from Food and Beverages, by Pregnancy/Lactation Status. (2020, January). Retrieved from USDA: What We Eat in America 2013-2016

Meet our Expert

This article features advice from our science team.

WhoWeAre-Mastaneh

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, PhD, RD, VP of Scientific Affairs at Ritual

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and is a Registered Dietitian. She received her training from Penn State University and University of Connecticut where she researched dietary patterns, chemosensory perception and community nutrition. Her dietetic work is focused on promoting healthy eating habits by translating the science of nutrition into practical information for the public.

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WhoWeAre-Mastaneh

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, PhD, RD, VP of Scientific Affairs at Ritual

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and is a Registered Dietitian. She received her training from Penn State University and University of Connecticut where she researched dietary patterns, chemosensory perception and community nutrition. Her dietetic work is focused on promoting healthy eating habits by translating the science of nutrition into practical information for the public.

LinkedIn

Meet the Author

vhoff

Victoria Hoff, Writer

Victoria Hoff is an accomplished writer, journalist, and former wellness editor who has covered a wide variety of health, nutrition, and wellness topics during her tenure. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts from New York University, and after writing for Vogue, Elle, Byrdie, The/Thirty, and more, channeled her editorial skills into a marketing career.

LinkedIn
vhoff

Victoria Hoff, Writer

Victoria Hoff is an accomplished writer, journalist, and former wellness editor who has covered a wide variety of health, nutrition, and wellness topics during her tenure. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts from New York University, and after writing for Vogue, Elle, Byrdie, The/Thirty, and more, channeled her editorial skills into a marketing career.

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