Monday, September 30, 2013

Truths About Fish Oil Weight Loss

By Dr. Mary Butler

Fish oil may or may not help you with weight management, or more specifically, fat management. Several factors come into play, some of which can enhance the positive effects of fish oil and others of which can undermine them.

Many studies have looked into the potential role of fish oil weight loss. Unfortunately, very few have explored the effects of other factors on their results, either negatively or positively. This explains why so many reports on PubMed, our national medical database, have contradictory conclusions.

In examining one study that compares fish oil vs. sunflower oil, from a 2007 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, we can see why results can vary. This and other such comparative reports point out the positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil as well as the negative effects of omega-6 fatty acids in sunflower oil.

Furthermore, the most important factor for enhancing the benefits of fish oil for weight loss is exercise. Moderate exercise (i.e., walking 3 days per week for 45 minutes at 75 percent of age-predicted maximal heart rate) significantly boosts the positive effects of fish oil. Effects of fish oil for reducing fat mass and building lean mass are inconsequential in the absence of exercise.

After taking into account all the seemingly contradictory results of multiple studies regarding the effects of fish oil on weight loss, we can consistently see four take-home lessons:

1) Vegetable oils undermine the benefits of fish oils. This lesson points directly to the modern intake of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of about 20:1, which should be closer to about 2:1. In other words, we should consume less vegetable oil and more fish oil.

2) The benefits of dietary fish oil for fat loss and lean body mass are boosted by even moderate exercise. Such benefits are insignificant in the absence of exercise.

3) The benefits of fish oil can be completely undermined by dietary sugar. Indeed, fructose and its occurrence in so many foods and beverages can be especially harmful against the otherwise beneficial effects of fish oil.

4) The daily amount of fish oil is crucial. It should be at least 1.5 grams, with 2-3 grams being even better. It is also important to take fish oil supplements that have the highest amounts of EPA and DHA, which are the two main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil.

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