Eat Fat to Lose Fat

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Looking for a weight-loss kick-start? It’s possible that omega-3 essential fatty acids could tip the scales in your favor. 

The two most important omega 3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found in fish and can be found in dietary supplements. But if you don’t eat fish, you don’t need to be left out. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3 fatty acid found in chia, flax, hemp, and walnuts. Once these foods are eaten, the body converts the ALA into EPA and DHA. Alternatively, vegetarians can skip ALA and find DHA and EPA directly in certain seaweed and algae supplements.

Omega 3s & Weight Loss

Omega 3s from fish oil help create a feeling of fullness, which is called satiety. When obese people took omega-3 supplements daily in a recent scientific study, their caloric intake went down. These folks also reported feeling fuller after meals. This short-term study (lasting just four weeks) didn’t go on long enough to give reliable data about meaningful long-term changes to BMI, although the fish oil-takers definitely trended in a downward direction. It would have been interesting to have the study continue for longer in order to confirm if this weight-loss tendency went the distance.

This is not the only study that’s been done in overweight or obese people taking fish oil. Other research that compared fish oil supplements to dummy pills found that the fish oil supplements did, in fact, result in greater loss of body weight, and specifically a greater loss of body fat. Supplement-takers also shrank more in terms of waist circumference.

The Positive Effects of Omega 3 Intake

You might be looking to increase your intake of essential fatty acids as part of a plan to lose inches or shed body fat, but did you know about the other perks that come from fish oil supplements? Omega 3s also provide these health benefits:

  • Healthier blood pressure
  • Better cholesterol profile
  • Clearer skin
  • Less anxiety
  • Less painful menstrual periods
  • Age-related macular degeneration risk reduction
  • Protection against glaucoma
  • Sharper cognition
  • Stronger immunity
  • Lower risk of depression and anxiety

Recommended Omega 3 Dosage for Health Benefits

So how much is the right amount? Health experts generally agree that 1,600 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA per day makes sense for men and 1,100 mg of EPA and DHA is a prudent amount for women.

There is one more supplement that bears mention here: CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). This is not an essential fatty acid per se, although it is a specific type of fat that might improve body composition. Studies show that CLA supplements help overweight people with weight-loss efforts and even curb holiday-associated weight gain.

In short, when it comes to supporting an overall diet and exercise plan to lose weight, there’s nothing fishy about fish oil supplements and other sources of essential fatty acids!

Sources: 

“Conjugated linoleic acid effects on cancer, obesity, and atherosclerosis: A review of pre-clinical and human trials with current perspectives” by L.J. den Hartigh. Nutrients, 2019   

“Effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on serum leptin levels, appetite sensations, and intake of energy and macronutrients in obese people: A randomized clinical trial” by L. Payahoo et al. J Diet Suppl, 2018   

“Fish or n3-PUFA intake and body composition: A systematic review and meta-analysis” by N. Bender et al., Obes Rev, 2014   

“Randomized trial of weight-loss diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content” by I. Thorsdottir et al., Int J Obes, 2007

Contributor: 

Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH

Victoria Dolby Toews has been a health journalist for two decades; her latest book is Life After Baby: Rediscovering and Reclaiming Your Healthy Pizzazz.

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