Do You Belong To The 98%? — Omega-3 Deficiency Symptoms

Do You Belong To The 98%? — Omega-3 Deficiency Symptoms

A recent study discovered that the staggering majority of the entire world population consumes insufficient levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which may lead to an Omega-3 deficiency. [1]

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in Nutrition
14 min read · Oct 03, 2023

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Some scientists refer to as many as 98% of all people having below recommended levels of Omega-3 in their blood levels. [2]

Therefore, chances are high that you also belong to the 98% and should get ahead of a potential Omega-3 deficiency. But what are those Omega-3s, and why are they essential for you?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that your body needs but cannot produce on its own. Therefore, you must obtain them through your diet or supplements. The Western diet can be predisposed to lack essential Omega-3 fatty acids, which is why many people should be aware of their intake – this can be done by a CARE blood analysis.

Since a lack of omega-3 fatty acids can result in health issues such as dry skin, cardiovascular problems, joint discomfort, weakened immune function, cognitive impairments, and many more, it is crucial to ensure your body receives an adequate amount of Omega-3s. The balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 is another significant factor, especially in Western societies, when it comes to addressing Omega-3 deficiencies. [3] We’ll talk about this later.

In this article, CARE thoroughly examines the issue of Omega-3 deficiencies, including their symptoms, causes, and ways to maintain proper Omega-3 levels through your dietary choices and lifestyle habits.

So, buckle up, and let’s get started!

What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Before we dive into the Omega-3 deficiency, we want to give you a quick crash course in biology concerning Omega-3 fatty acids.

First of all, there are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These three fatty acids play a crucial role in various bodily functions, including brain health, cardiovascular health, and reducing inflammation. [3]

We’ll now explain each of these Omega-3 fatty acids in more detail and focus on their individual functions for your body.

DHA For Brain & Eyes – Docosahexaenoic Acid

DHA, which stands for Docosahexaenoic Acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid that is necessary for maintaining optimal health in your body. This fatty acid plays an important biological role, especially when it comes to your brain and eyes. [4]

Think of DHA as a special building block for your brain. It helps with its growth and development while also ensuring cognitive function, memory retention, and focus throughout your life. [4]

Moreover, DHA is essential for supporting vision and promoting eye development. This Omega-3 fatty acid helps your body to maintain good eyesight. It also possesses inflammatory properties that can help lower the risk of chronic diseases. [4].

To make sure you're getting enough DHA, you may want to consider including sources like fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, or opting for DHA-fortified foods or supplements in your diet. By doing so, you're not only taking care of your brain and eyes, but you also promote overall well-being.

EPA For Strong Hearts – Eicosapentaenoic Acid

EPA, or Eicosapentaenoic Acid, is another vital omega-3 fatty acid with numerous benefits for your body. One of its primary roles is to support heart health. EPA helps reduce inflammation and lower triglyceride levels in the bloodstream, which can lower the risk of heart disease and promote healthy blood vessels. It also plays a part in maintaining a balanced mood and mental well-being, potentially alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. [5]

EPA is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, making it valuable in managing various inflammatory conditions, including arthritis and inflammatory skin conditions. To harness the benefits of EPA, you should consider incorporating sources like fatty fish (e.g., tuna and sardines) and EPA-rich supplements into your diet. [5]

Prioritizing EPA-rich foods can improve cardiovascular health, emotional balance, and overall wellness.

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ALA With Neuroprotective Properties – Alpha-Linolenic Acid

ALA, also known as Alpha Linolenic Acid, is a fatty acid that is important for the well-being of your body as well. While in the past, this fatty acid had a reputation for not having as drastic impacts as EPA and DHA, recent studies begin to show that ALA still plays a vital role and has neuroprotective properties. Furthermore, it acts as a foundation for omega-3 fatty acids and contributes to reducing inflammation, which can be beneficial for various health conditions. Although your body can convert some ALA into EPA and, to an extent, into DHA, this conversion process is not highly efficient. [6]

Therefore, incorporating sources of ALA into your diet, like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, can promote heart health, neurological health, and lower the risk of chronic diseases. [6]

In conclusion, although ALA may not steal the spotlight regarding omega 3s, it plays a supporting role in maintaining your body's well-being and should be included in a balanced diet.

Benefits of Omega-3s – Wellness in a Nutshell

Most people know Omega-3s as the “good fats” since they are considered essential because your body cannot produce them independently and must acquire them from your diet. You can find these good fats primarily in fatty fish and plant-based sources. [7]

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat, and you have just learned about their numerous health advantages.

By the way, the fatty acid got its name “omega-3” due to its location on the first double bond in the carbon chain of the fatty acid molecule, counting from the methyl (CH3) end of the molecule. [3]

If you consume all three types of Omega 3s in balance with each other, you can profit from their positive impact on our health and wellness. We will now sum up the most prominent advantages of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fats have long been acknowledged for their benefits on heart health. They can decrease triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease by combating inflammation and enhancing the functioning of our blood vessels. [3]

Furthermore, omega-3s are essential for maintaining brain health. Specifically, DHA is a component that contributes significantly to brain development in infants and cognitive function in adults. Remarkably, they may even help mitigate the decline associated with aging. Recent studies have also suggested that omega 3s can aid in preventing conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. [3]

Regarding mood and mental well-being, omega 3s can provide mental health, mainly through EPA supplementation. Research indicates that this specific Omega-3 fatty acid can contribute to a steady mood while decreasing the risk of depression and anxiety disorders.

The anti-inflammatory properties of omega 3s make them also valuable in alleviating symptoms related to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Moreover, these healthy fats can improve health by reducing pain and stiffness commonly experienced with osteoarthritis. [8]

Additionally, omega 3s promote eye health by supporting vision and reducing the likelihood of age-related macular degeneration and dry eye syndrome. [8]

Lastly, it is essential to note that omega-3s also play a role in maintaining hydration levels within our bodies. The hydrating properties of fatty acids can benefit our skin and alleviate symptoms associated with skin disorders like psoriasis. Regularly consuming foods containing these fatty acids has also been linked to a reduced risk of diseases, including certain types of cancer and autoimmune disorders. [8]

Pregnant women, in particular, should ensure they consume omega-3 fatty acids as they support the development of the brain and eyes in the fetus while also reducing the likelihood of preterm birth. [9]

To reap these health benefits, it is recommended to include a diet that incorporates reliable and high-quality sources of omega-3s, such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Moreover, seeking guidance from healthcare professionals like CARE and getting your blood analyzed to assess your omega-3 levels can help ensure a balance.

If we identify a deficiency or if your levels indicate you're below the recommended amount, we will provide you with detailed advice on how to improve this. For instance, adjusting your diet or considering supplements can further enhance your nutrition. Prioritize your health and fully exploit the advantages offered by omega-3 fatty acids with a blood analysis by CARE.

Are you already concerned about not getting omega-3 fatty acids from your diet? Here are a few examples of the symptoms that can occur when your body lacks Omega-3 fatty acids.

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Symptoms of Omega-3 Deficiency

How often do you eat fatty fish or consume fish oil? Chances are high, not very often. This is the reason the vast majority, up to 98% of adults, do not have sufficient Omega-3 in their blood levels.

An omega-3 deficiency can lead to a range of symptoms and health issues, which develop when the body doesn't receive an adequate supply of essential omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid), DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), and ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid). [10]

CARE has summed up the most common symptoms of an Omega-3 deficiency for you:

Dry Eyes

Do you catch yourself blinking a lot or suffering from red and itchy eyes? Omega-3s are essential for eye health, and their deficiency can result in dry eyes and an increased risk of eye-related problems. [10]

Dry Skin

Ashy and itchy skin can be a symptom of an Omega-3 deficiency. A lack of omega-3s can manifest in dry, flaky skin, as these fatty acids are crucial in maintaining skin health and hydration. [10]

Joint Pain

Do you often have paint in your joints or catch yourself moving them around a lot to relieve yourself from pressure or discomfort? Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties, and a deficiency may contribute to joint pain and stiffness, particularly in conditions like arthritis. [10]

Weakened Immune System

Have you been sick more frequently than what you consider average? Omega-3s are essential for immune system function, and their deficiency can lead to a compromised immune response, making the body more susceptible to infections like colds and the flu. [10]

Low Energy & Fatigue

Is your battery often empty, and you feel like you run on reserve fuel? Low energy levels and a feeling of fatigue might be symptoms of an improper intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. An omega-3 deficiency can result in fatigue and decreased energy levels, affecting your overall vitality. [10]

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How Can I Get Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

It's important to have omega-3 fatty acids in your diet to maintain good overall health. To make sure you're getting enough, we can divide omega 3 sources into two categories; animal sources and plant sources.

Animal sources like fish such as salmon and mackerel are rich in EPA and DHA, which are the most bioactive forms of omega 3s. Eating these types of fish regularly can really boost your intake of omega 3s. [11]

On the other hand, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, plant-based sources like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are available that are high in ALA. Your body can then convert ALA into EPA and DHA.

To meet your needs and enjoy the many health benefits of these essential fatty acids, it's best to have a balanced diet that includes a variety of both animal and plant-based sources of omega-3s.

CARE has put together a list of our favorite omega-3 sources to give you some ideas.

Animal-Based Omega-3 Sources:

Let's start with non-vegetarian food sources. The following animal-based omega-3 sources are valuable additions to a balanced diet, helping you meet your nutritional needs for these essential fatty acids, which contribute to your overall well-being and health.

Fatty Fish (such as Salmon, Mackerel, and Sardines)

Fatty fish are considered sources of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA. These fish obtain omega-3s by consuming algae and smaller fish rich in these fats. Regularly including fish in your diet can provide a significant amount of EPA and DHA, which support heart health and brain function and help reduce inflammation. [11]


Similar to salmon, trout is another cold-water fish abundant in omega-3 fatty acids. Adding trout to your meals can contribute to your intake of EPA and DHA, promoting health and overall well-being.


Herring is another type of fish that offers a good amount of omega 3s, including EPA and DHA. Incorporating herring into your diet can help lower the risk of heart disease and support brain health.


These small oily fish are rich in omega 3s DHA. Including anchovies in your meals can increase your intake of omega 3s, which aids function and promotes heart health.

Krill Oil

Krill oil derives from shrimp-like creatures called krill. It serves as a source of both EPA and DHA and is available as a dietary supplement. Krill oil is known for its bioavailability, making it a practical option for supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids.

Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil, a big surprise, originates from the liver of codfish. It is a beneficial source of EPA and DHA. It also naturally contains amounts of vitamin D, which makes it valuable for maintaining strong bones and a healthy immune system.


Mussels are shellfish that offer a quantity of EPA and DHA. They provide a seafood option that supports heart health and enhances brain function.


Oysters serve as a source of omega-3s, although in smaller amounts than fatty fish. Nonetheless, they contribute to your intake of omega-3s while providing additional nutritional benefits such as zinc and iron.


Caviar, especially when sourced from salmon or sturgeon contains omega 3 fatty acids. While it may not be the common choice, caviar can be enjoyed as an exquisite option to incorporate omega 3s into your diet.


Crabmeat may not be as abundant in omega-3s as fish; however it does contain these essential fatty acids. Including crab, in your seafood selection adds variety to your nutrient intake while still providing some omega 3 benefits.

Plant-Based Omega-3 Sources

We appreciate your patience and understanding, fellow vegetarians and vegans. We now want to share some plant-based sources of omega-3 that can help you meet your needs for these healthy fats, which are beneficial for your overall well-being.

It's worth noting that although plant-based sources provide ALA, this fatty acid is not quite as compared to EPA and DHA from animal-based foods. Therefore, if you're looking to maximize your intake of EPA and DHA, you may also consider combining both food sources or taking algae-based supplements. [12]

Nonetheless, incorporating a variety of these plant-based sources into your diet can contribute to your overall omega-3 intake.


Flaxseeds are known for their content of ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid), a beneficial type of omega-3 fatty acid. These tiny seeds can be ground up and added to various foods like smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt to increase your intake of omega-3s.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds also offer a source of ALA and have the unique ability to absorb liquid, creating a gel-like texture. This makes them great for making puddings, jams, or even as an egg substitute in vegan baking recipes.


Walnuts are another way to incorporate omega-3s into your plant-based diet since they contain a significant amount of ALA. You can enjoy them as a snack by themselves, add them to salads for a crunch and nutrition, or include them in baked goods for added flavor and health benefits.

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds provide a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These nutty seeds can be sprinkled on top of salads, mixed with yogurt for added texture and nutrition, or blended into smoothies to give them a nutritious boost.

Algae Supplements

For those seeking vegan alternatives to fish-and-animal-based sources of omega 3s like EPA and DHA, algal oil derived from algae is available as an efficient supplement. It offers the benefits of fish-derived omega-3s without any animal products involved.

Perilla Oil

Lastly, perilla oil extracted from the seeds of the perilla plant is rich in ALA. It can be used in cooking and be drizzled over dishes as an alternative source of this essential fatty acid. In cooking, it's quite common to use a particular ingredient that serves both as a cooking oil and a flavor enhancer due to its omega-3 content.

Leafy Greens & Spinach

Spinach and other leafy greens also contain ALA, although not as much as seeds or oils. However, they still offer health benefits if you include them in your diet. If you enjoy Japanese cuisine, adding seaweed (also known as Nori in sushi rolls) can provide you with a small amount of ALA and an interesting way to incorporate omega 3s into your meals.

Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 supplements are mostly available in the form of algae-derived capsules or fish oils. These bottles (or capsules) of oceanic wisdom can be a blessing for your health, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian.

Omega-3 supplements contain a concentrated dose of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, and some even contain the third one, ALA.

These good fatty acids play a symphony of roles in the orchestra of your well-being. Imagine them as the soothing balm for your heart's rhythms, your brain's intricate dance of neurons and memories, and granting your body a harmonious balance.

Omega-3 supplements offer a convenient and easy-going gateway to the benefits of omega-3s. If you would like to find out if you have a balanced and optimal supply of Omega-3s, a blood analysis with CARE can give you a detailed insight into your blood levels. If the blood test reveals lower-than-optimal levels of EPA and DHA, it suggests an omega-3 deficiency. Another way to assess omega-3 status is by evaluating the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s in your blood. A high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio may indicate an imbalance, as omega-6s can promote inflammation when not balanced by sufficient omega-3s. [13]

If we discover that you have an omega-3 deficiency or low levels of Omega-3s, we can help you take several steps to address it: a change in your diet, for example, or a supplementation with Omega-3 supplements.

A blood analysis with CARE can help you take charge of your health. Prioritizing your wellness and incorporating the findings of your blood analysis into your lifestyle can guide you toward restoring your omega-3 balance and enjoying the associated health benefits.

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Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!