More people are discovering the health benefits of eating fish. Even those who don’t like the taste of fish are turning to fish oil supplements to get the heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory benefits the omega-3s these supplements provide. Some people even believe that omega-3 fats help with weight loss. Is there any evidence that eating fish or taking a fish oil supplement can help you lose weight?
Do Omega-3 Supplements Help with Weight Loss?
There are some obvious advantages to eating fish as a whole food. Fish is low in calories and carbs and high in protein. Eating more fish in place of red meat creates a calorie deficit that may lead to weight loss. It’s less clear cut whether taking an omega-3 rich fish oil supplement promotes weight loss independently of diet.
Several earlier studies showed that omega-3s may have benefits when it comes to fat loss. On the other hand, a more recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition called these benefits into question. When they gave 128 overweight and obese people 5 fish oil capsules a day or a placebo along with exercise and dietary counseling, both groups lost similar amounts of weight over a 6-month period. Omega-3s didn’t have an impact on their weight loss.
Despite these less than encouraging results, research shows that omega-3 fatty acids increase insulin sensitivity and reduce circulating levels of insulin. This bodes well for fat loss. Insulin is a hormone that promotes fat storage, and higher levels of insulin suppress growth hormone, a hormone that promotes fat loss.
Do Omega-3s Help with Appetite Suppression?
On a more optimistic note, a study published in the journal Appetite showed that omega-3 fats help with appetite suppression. Overweight and obese participants who took an omega-3 supplement for 2 months while following a weight loss diet reported less hunger after and between meals. Researchers in this study believe that omega-3 fatty acids may have an impact on hormones that control appetite.
What Does This Mean?
There are lots of advantages to adding more fish to your diet and getting omega-3s through diet or from a supplement. These healthy fats have a natural anti-inflammatory effect that protects against heart attack and stroke, and they may relieve the symptoms of some inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It’s not clear whether they help with fat loss, although there’s preliminary evidence that they increase satiety and reduce insulin resistance.
Most people can safely take omega-3 supplements as long as they’re not on Coumadin or other blood thinning medications, and you can get similar benefits by eating two to three servings of wild salmon a week. Always choose wild salmon since farm-raised salmon has lower levels of omega-3s and higher levels of toxins.
Eating more omega-3 rich fish or taking a fish oil supplement has health benefits, especially when it comes to your heart, but it’s not clear whether it directly contributes to weight loss.
Life Extension Magazine. “Mechanism found for omega-3 fatty acids in reducing insulin resistance and inflammation”
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.110.002741.