Omega-3 Fatty Acids Aid in Weight Loss

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A recent study suggests that omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a lower incidence of obesity and may play a role in weight loss. This finding adds to the growing body of literature in which omega-3 fatty acids have been found to provide many health benefits, including assistance with weight loss.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids, are essential fatty acids, which means they cannot be produced by the human body. Dietary sources include fish and certain plant and nut oils. Fish oil contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), while nuts and vegetables oils contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the third main type of omega-3 fatty acid.

Many studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of heart disease and help with symptoms of inflammation in arthritis, among other benefits. Research into its role in weight loss in adults has been sparse, and includes a trial in 2006 in which omega-3 fatty acids were found to enhance weight loss in obese women.

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In the current study, 124 adults were enrolled: 21 had a healthy weight, 40 were overweight, and 63 were obese. Blood samples were taken from all the participants after they had fasted for at least ten hours. The researchers noted a relationship between the levels of total omega-3 in the blood as well as blood levels of DHA and EPA with body mass index (BMI), waist size, and hip circumference.

Overall, the obese participants had omega-3 levels that were nearly 1 percent lower than those in the healthy-weight volunteers, 4.53 percent versus 5.25 percent. When the study participants were classified according to their omega-3 levels alone, the researchers noted that higher omega-3 levels were associated with a smaller waist, lower hip size, and a healthier BMI.

Exactly how omega-3 fatty acids work to aid weight loss is not certain, although some experts suggest they increase fat burning (thermogenesis) or that they increase a feeling of fullness by impacting the levels of hormones associated with hunger and appetite, including ghrelin and leptin.

The findings from this study led the researchers to state that omega-3 supplementation may be an important factor in preventing weight gain and enhancing weight loss, especially when combined with a weight-loss program. Future studies will examine the influence of omega-3 supplementation on weight management and prevention of weight gain in overweight and obese individuals.

SOURCES:
Kunesova M et al. Physiological Research 2006; 55(1): 63-72
Micallef M et al. British Journal of Nutrition 2009; online doi:10.1017/S000714509382173

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