Could simply taking fish oil really help you lose weight?
Before I started livin' la vida low-carb, I pretty much snubbed my nose up at anyone who took vitamins and supplements to allegedly improve their health. I thought it was such a waste of time and money on something that just made your urine more expensive and yellow. :-~
In fact, when I was growing up, my dad used to let the local Shaklee devotees hold their monthly meetings in his restaurant to talk about all of the supposedly wonderful benefits of supplementation to your diet. One lady, no lie, used to take a handful of at least 50 different pills and down them all in one swallow with a glass of water chaser! Eeeek!
Who knew that 20 or so years later this former skeptic would become a believer and join the ranks of the vitamin-popping people as well! But now this Reuters story about a new Australian study showing the healthy weight loss benefits of taking omega-3 fatty acids-rich fish oil supplements to complement a moderate exercise program makes me proud that I have added supplementation to my diet.
Lead researcher Alison Hill, an honors student in the School of Health Sciences at the University of South Australia, observed 68 overweight and obese study participants with high blood pressure and high cholesterol and divided them into one of four groups over a 3-month period:
GROUP 1 - Small doses of tuna fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids)
GROUP 2 - Sunflower oil (no omega-3 fatty acids) w/no diet change
GROUP 3 - Small doses of tuna fish oil with 135 min exer/wk
GROUP 4 - Sunflower oil w/no diet change & 135 min exer/wk
Hill said she wanted to see how well the omega-3's found in the fish oil would help the study participants lose weight.
"The omega-3 found in fish oil increases fat-burning ability by improving the flow of blood to muscles during exercise," Hill noted.
What she discovered was that GROUP 3, who exercised 45-minutes by walking or running three days a week, lost an average of 4.5 pounds over the 3-month study, while GROUP 1, GROUP 2, and GROUP 4 did not lose any weight at all.
The results of this study made Hill "very surprised" because the study participants "were still eating whatever they wanted."
"It's pretty exciting because this implies the results would be even better if you did control diet and exercised more heavily," Hill concluded.
Oh no doubt the weight loss would have been a lot better had they been on some kind of weight loss plan such as livin' la vida low-carb. When I started losing my weight in early 2004, it was not a question of if, but rather WHEN I would start exercising. At 410 pounds, I could just barely breath walking around. But as I started losing weight, I knew making exercise a permanent habit would come into play in my success so I began in earnest one month after starting my low-carb lifestyle.
But I didn't add fish oil to my supplements for several months. I don't know, I guess I just didn't think about it since you don't hear a lot about it and how important it is to your health anywhere. That's one of the reasons I started my blog was to help get information like this out there so that the future morbidly obese Jimmy Moores out there can have access to the information they need to live a long and healthy life. The facts are there, but they're not getting out to the people who need to hear them.
The researchers theorize that it is the better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids that brings about the better weight loss. In fact, the higher ratio between these two is believed to be protective against diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even cancer. Unfortunately, most Americans are consuming way too much omega-6 fatty acids because of the corn oil that is in everything (I will be reviewing a book that talks about this very soon) and not enough omega-3's, commonly found in fish oil.
So what is it about fish oil that is bringing about the weight loss? Hill explains.
"We suspect that they improve blood flow to exercising muscles and stimulate key enzymes to transport fat that needs to be used as fuel," Hill said. "In overweight people this ability is almost always impaired."
Not surprisingly, Hill is already working on more long-term studies to see what happens with varying levels of fish oil and exercise. She presented these findings at the Congress of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) in Cairns, Queensland in Australia.
You can e-mail Alison Hill about her excellent study at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8-3-06 UPDATE: Many of my readers were wondering exactly what amount of fish oil the study subjects were taking, so I posed that question to Alison Hill directly.
Here was her response to me today:
Our subjects took 6 x 1g capsules of a DHA rich (26% DHA) fish oil per day.
This work is part of my PhD and while we need to contribute something new to the scientific body of knowledge to be awarded our doctorate, I am pleased that my work is also something that people are finding interesting and beneficial!
Thanks for your interest in our study.
So, this "small dosage" of fish oil was basically 6g of DHA-rich fish oil daily. I appreciate the added information and wish Alison Hill all the success she desires in her scientific career post-doctorate!