Fish oil is well known for its beneficial cardiovascular and cardiac health effects. In 2004 FDA approved a prescription fish oil preparation for treatment of high blood triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia). However, recently several studies have shown that fish oil also has other beneficial effects, which might appeal more to the younger population, and especially to fitness and bodybuilding enthusiasts. One of these effects is fat loss.
Fish Oil Induced Fat Loss
In the 80s early 90s, several animal studies showed that fish oil reduces body fat 2-5 and weight gain 6-9, and limits adipose tissue expansion 10-12. These effects have been seen during both a decreased 37, constant 5 or even increased energy intakes 6. This indicates that the fatty acids in fish oil, notably EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), have an effect on the partitioning of fat between oxidation (fat burning) and storage in the body.
Perspective on fish oil and fat loss
In contrast to the positive studies, there are a few that didn’t show any fat loss with fish oil supplementation 60-63. This could be due to differences in subject characteristics (age, initial body fat mass, baseline physical activity), methodological differences, and differences in fish oil preparations (see below). However, several high quality studies have shown that fish oil supplementation has a significant fat loss effect in addition to all its other health promoting effects. Overall, fish oil seems to have the ability to shift fat metabolism away from storage toward burning of body fat.
It’s getting better – fat loss combined with lean mass (muscle) gain
In one of the most recent studies on fish oil’s fat loss effect, men and women (mean age 33 yrs) where given 4 g of fish oil corresponding to 1600 mg EPA and 800 mg DHA 48. After 6 weeks, the placebo group, which was given 4 g of safflower oil, showed a tendency towards fat gain.
The fish oil group instead had lost 0.5 kg of fat mass and gained 0.5 kg of lean mass, with no change in body weight. This is a very beneficial body composition effect and underscores the importance of investigating fat mass and lean mass separately, since just measuring body weight will not tell anything about potential compositional changes, which after all is what is interesting from both a health, esthetic and physical performance viewpoint. I will cover the anti-catabolic and potential lean mass gaining effects of fish oil in another upcoming article.
Whether you are on a diet or not, adding a fish oil supplement to your regimen can effectively help you get in shape. The additional calories from the fish oil will not get stored; quite to the contrary, fish oil will help you get rid of calories you already have stored in your body fat. What’s interesting is that fish oil supplementation seems to reduce body fat and waist circumference despite unchanged exercise and/or other dietary practices.
via Crossfit Pluse