You may have heard that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can reduce inflammation, improve heart health, reduce joint pain, and have a positive effect on mood.
What you may not know is that omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, are also a powerful weight loss solution.
I was caught off guard when I reviewed a recent study showing how healthy men lost substantial amounts of body fat when taking 2.4 grams of EPA and DHA fatty acids from fish oil daily.
I’ll cover this study in detail in just a moment. Upon further review, I discovered numerous studies demonstrating the fat loss benefits of fish oil.
Even more interesting, my research turned up the four specific ways in which the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oil can help you lose fat:
- Inhibits the enzymes that cause you to store fat.1
- Stimulates the key enzymes that promote fat oxidation (fat burning).2
- Increases adiponectin, the fat burning hormone that’s directly related to reduced fat storage.3
- Decreases cortisol, the “stress hormone” that contributes to the accumulation of dangerous belly fat. 4
Now here’s the study I referred to earlier.
The Omega-3/Fish Oil Fat Loss Connection
A recent study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition5, exploredif you compared taking Omega-3s from fish oil to consuming safflower oil over a 6 week period.
The researchers created two groups: one group consumed 4 grams of fish oil a day with a combined EPA/DHA content of 2.4 grams. The second group consumed 4 grams of safflower oil a day with a high linoleic acid profile.
The subjects were toldto modify their eating or exercise habits in any way. And the study was double blinded, meaning that neither the subjects nor the researchers knew who was taking what.
A brief note… one reason the researchers decided on safflower oil is because of its purported weight loss benefits. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition had previously demonstrated a weight loss effect from safflower oil.
Safflower oil was recently featured on “The Doctor Oz” show and is currently being sold in drug stores as a “weight loss miracle“.
The point is that fish oil was not being compared to an unhealthy fat, but rather to a “weight loss” fat.
The Study Results: Does Fish Oil Melt Fat?
Well, at least according to this study, fish oil works a whole lot better than safflower oil. In fact, the safflower oil actually made people gain fat and lose muscle, while the omega-3 fish oil did the opposite.
Here are the details:
The safflower oil group added 0.44 pounds of body fat (about ½ of a pound) and lost 0.22 pounds of muscle (about ¼ of a pound). Overall the group experienced a 0.3%in body fat percentage.
And their cortisol levels were elevated by an average 0.016 ug/dl (mircrograms of cortisol per deciliter). I’m sure this is not what the researchers expected. Remember, this is over only 6 weeks with no other changes… over a year this would mean someone gaining almost 4 pounds of body fat.
The fish oil group was another story. The group actually lost 1.1 pounds of pure body fat, and instead of losing muscle, they gained the same amount (1.1 pounds of pure muscle). Even better, instead of having their body fat percentages rise, they actually dropped 0.4%.
And their cortisol levels decreased by 0.064 ug/dl!
The Fat Loss Results In Perspective
Let’s put these results in perspective. By ingesting 4 grams of fat (as fish oil) a day (about 36 calories), subjects were able to lose fat, gain muscle and dramatically reduce their body fat percentage over a very short period of time.
More importantly, by testing head to head against another fat considered good for weight loss, you can see the results were not simply due to eating more fat in general, but because of the omega-3s in particular.
Also consider the fact that the participants did not change their diet or exercise one bit during the study. For an ingredient to have this kind of impact “out in the wild” (without any changes in diet or exercise) is very impressive indeed.
The fact that fish oil did so well under these conditions while safflower oil did not is a big surprise.
So now that you’ve read about these results, you may be wondering how to select the right omega-3 fish oil.
How to Find the Right Omega-3 Fish Oil for You
Full disclosure: We recently formulated a high quality fish oil – RealDose Omega-3 TG. So the criteria I’m sharing with you were used in the development of our formula. You could use these same criteria when looking at other brands.
That said, we decided to formulate our own omega-3 fish oil when we couldn’t find an oil in the consumer marketplace that met our strict RealDose standards at an affordable price.
The study discussed above used fish oil that contained 2.4 grams a day of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.
There’s a reason for this.
If you review all the studies on fish oil, to get the results claimed for almost any condition typically requires over 2.0 grams a day of EPA and DHA.
Over 2.4 grams of EPA/DHA a day, there’s little evidence of improved health benefits and when you get to over 3.0 grams a day of EPA/DHA, doctors start getting concerned with blood thinning.
So 2.4 grams a day of omega-3 fatty acids is what you want… not 2.4 grams ofbut of the omega-3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.
The second thing to look for is absorbability. Most sources of fish oil are in what’s called “ethyl ester” form. This isn’t harmful, but compared to the natural triglyceride (TG) form, it simply is not as absorbable.
In fact, “ethyl ester” form fish oil is about 70% less absorbable than the natural TG form, according to most studies.
So we recommend you get the natural TG form so you can truly experience all of the benefits. If your fish oil bottle is not specifically labeled “triglyceride form,” then it’s mostly likely the cheaper and less absorbable “ethyl ester” form.
And of course we look for purity that’s verified by an independent lab. Most reputable companies sell purified fish but don’t bother to test every batch at a 3rd party lab. It’s definitely something worth checking into.
It’s definitely possible to use my checklist to shop for the right omega-3 fish oil and I don’t want to discourage you from doing so.
If you are interested in checking out the RealDose Omega-3 TG Fish Oil we’ve formulated, you can CLICK HERE to read more about it.
Again, other fish oils will not hurt you and are certainly better than nothing. It just usually takes too many pills (typically 6-10) to get the 2.4 grams of omega-3’s a day from typical products, and most aren’t as readily absorbed… plus most other brands give you fishy burps and aftertaste (RealDose Omega-3 TG has a very pleasant, natural lemon-lime flavor).
I am interested in any experiences you have had with fish oil, and whether you have noticed any weight loss benefits.
If you have, or you have any questions regarding fish oil, please comment in the box below.
And if you’re interested in a shortcut for accelerating your weight loss results with omega-3 fatty acids, you can learn more about RealDose Omega-3 TG here...
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?
I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.
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References:1. Hannah VC, Ou J, Luong A, Goldstein JL, Brown MS. Unsaturated fatty acids down-regulate srebp isoforms 1a and 1c by two mechanisms in HEK-293 cells. The Journal of biological chemistry 2001;276(6):4365-72.
2. Desvergne B, Wahli W. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors: nuclear control of metabolism. Endocrine reviews 1999;20(5):649-88.
3. Nedvidkova J, Smitka K, Kopsky V, Hainer V. Adiponectin, an adipocyte-derived protein. Physiological research / Academia Scientiarum Bohemoslovaca 2005;54(2):133-40.
4. Delarue J, Matzinger O, Binnert C, Schneiter P, Chiolero R, Tappy L. Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress in healthy men. Diabetes & metabolism 2003;29(3):289-95.
5. Noreen EE, Sass MJ, Crowe ML, Pabon VA, Brandauer J, Averill LK. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010;7:31