The global epidemic of obesity is taking over many parts of the world and represents a major public health challenge. The prognosis for North Americans is poor and unfortunately, it’s getting worse for children, adolescents, and adults alike; not only are we seeing climbing body weights but we are also seeing more and more bulging waistlines, which is indicative of the dangerous belly fat that surrounds our organs [1-4]. Supplementing with omega-3 fish oil seems to be a safe, inexpensive, and effective option that can help us prevent and treat this serious health concern.

Omega-3 fatty acids are low in overweight/obese subjects

Body mass index (BMI) is a number that is calculated from a person’s weight and height. It is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems. Research reveals that lower body levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with higher BMI results, meaning that improving your omega-3 levels may reduce the risk of having a weight problem [5-7]. Although BMI is a popular screening tool, it has major limitations because it isn’t able to discriminate between fat and lean (muscle) mass; it has been suggested that body fat percentage plays a more important role in distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy individuals [8, 9].

Belly fat in particular is especially dangerous and is considered to be more predictive of poor health than BMI [10, 11]. Low omega-3 fatty acids also seem to play a role in the accumulation of belly fat[5, 12]. In fact, higher omega-3 fatty acid levels may reduce belly fat by decreasing fat cell size [13]. These results suggest that dietary management with omega-3 fatty acids may represent an important way to better manage BMI and belly fat.

Supplementing with omega-3 fish oil results in weight loss

Omega-3 fish oil supplementation has been shown to be effective for promoting not only weight loss but also fat loss and belly fat loss in various trials; dosages have ranged from 300 mg to 1.8 grams daily of EPA+DHA [14-18]. The addition of omega-3 fatty acids to an exercise program also seems to boost fat loss potential[19, 20]. Likewise, the addition of seafood or fish oil to a nutritionally balanced calorie-restricted diet seems to boost weight loss potential [21, 22]. This begs the question: does combining omega-3 fatty acid supplementation with both diet and exercise provide even more significant results? The answer is yes!

In a short 3-week clinical trial, people who combined 2.8 grams daily of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation (2:1 ratio of EPA to DHA) with both calorie restriction and regular exercise experienced a 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) greater weight loss compared to those consuming a placebo, following a calorie-restricted diet, and exercising [23]. Therefore, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids can improve body composition but combining supplementation with calorie restriction and/or exercise further accelerates the weight/fat loss process.

How does it work?

Omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to improved body composition by increasing metabolism and fat burning potential [23-27]. They also seem to suppress appetite, which leads to the consumption of fewer calories [28, 29].

Omega-3 improves the metabolic consequences of obesity

For many years, excess body fat was thought to be simply a storage space for extra calories. However, overwhelming evidence in recent years has revealed that excess body fat has severe consequences within the body, such as inflammation, insulin resistance, high triglycerides, and many others [30-34]. An increased omega-3 fatty acid intake has been shown to attenuate many of these consequences [14, 15, 17, 21, 25, 35-46]. Therefore, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may not only improve weight/fat loss but it may also offer additional benefits in managing the serious consequences of obesity.

Conclusion

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements seem to offer a breadth of health benefits in regards to obesity and cannot be ignored. Therefore, adding fish oil to your daily regime might be worth considering!

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37.          Itoh, M., et al., Increased adiponectin secretion by highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid in rodent models of obesity and human obese subjects. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol, 2007. 27(9): p. 1918-25.

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39.          Neff, L.M., et al., Algal docosahexaenoic acid affects plasma lipoprotein particle size distribution in overweight and obese adults. J Nutr, 2011. 141(2): p. 207-13.

40.          Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., et al., Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation in healthy middle-aged and older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun, 2012. 26(6): p. 988-95.

41.          Kalupahana, N.S., K.J. Claycombe, and N. Moustaid-Moussa, (n-3) Fatty acids alleviate adipose tissue inflammation and insulin resistance: mechanistic insights. Adv Nutr, 2011. 2(4): p. 304-16.

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45.          Ramel, A., et al., Beneficial effects of long-chain n-3 fatty acids included in an energy-restricted diet on insulin resistance in overweight and obese European young adults. Diabetologia, 2008. 51(7): p. 1261-8.

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