Omega-3 fatty acids are essential acids that the body cannot manufacture. Hence, the required quantities must be got through a diet rich in these fats from food sources such as fish that contains EPA and DHA also known as long-chain acids. Some sources of omega-3 are seafood such as krill, salmon, tuna, halibut, flaxseed, algae, seaweed and oils made from canola, walnut etc.
Full of healthy polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats, omega-3 has several health benefits for the heart and brain. The wide ranging effects of omega-3 can be experienced from the fetal stage. Here, we will see some of the benefits of omega-3 for weight loss.
Omega-3, Omega 6 and Weight Loss
Emerging studies have found a strong correlation between intake of foods rich in omega-3 fats and prevention of obesity. Foods rich in fatty acids have the opposite effects – omega-6 increases obesity and omega-3 reduces it. However, people must know that omega-3 supplements alone cannot reduce fat. A proper diet and exercise are also crucial to weight loss.
The role of omega-6 in increasing obesity in the western world has been studied for many years. The disproportionate consumption of omega-6 combined with a sedentary lifestyle has lead to increase in the number of obese people world over. Omega-6 boosts adipogenesis or creation of fat in the human body. Animals were fed the same number of calories and the ones that had an excess of omega-6 in their diet, were fatter. Even salmon grown on a farm were fat when fed a diet rich in omega-6.
Even if these animals were exercised, they remained fat due to excessive fat deposits that were difficult to get rid of easily. Scientists discovered that this was due to the creation of the eicosanoid prostacyclin by omega-6. This is responsible for an inflammatory cycle that triggers cells to create fat. Omega-6 also increases resistance to insulin therefore making weight loss more difficult to achieve in those suffering from diabetes.
Omega-3 and weight loss: Just as omega-6 promotes weight gain, we will see the benefits of omega-3 for weight loss. A study conducted over a period of 15 years found that omega-3 can actually prevent obesity by switching off the genes responsible for fat creation. Omega-3 also lowers insulin level therefore helping with weight loss and control of diabetes. It blocks the creation of fat-creating eicosanoids by omega-6. It lowers levels of leptin found in fat cells, which is a powerful compound that promotes obesity. Finally, omega-3 helps to burn fat deposited in the abdomen, therefore promoting weight loss.
Fish Oil and Weight Loss
A small study conducted in France found that healthy adults who were not obese consumed 6g of fish oil every day. This showed the advantages of omega-3 for weight loss, for it increased metabolic rate without the need to change calorie intake. The same result was found in animals that were fed fish oil. The calories in these animals remained constant while body fat was lowered.
To maintain a healthy weight, it is important to change dietary habits and exercise too. Foods that expand the waistline should be replaced by healthy foods. One such food that can help is fish. This is a natural weight-loss food ideal for seafood lovers. It has an excellent flavor, it can be cooked in a variety of ways, is low in calories and is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids.
Most of omega-3 for weight loss benefits can be achieved by fish and its products. Since it is low in saturated fat, it is the ideal substitute for unhealthy beef and pork. Most fish products are low in cholesterol too. Fatty fish is the type that contains more quantities of omega-3. Even if they are termed ‘fatty’ they contain less fat than other meat products like chicken or beef. Canned fish such as tuna, sardines, salmon and krill are the best options for omega-3.
However, there is always the danger of contaminated fish especially with most water bodies being polluted by industrial chemicals and mercury. So, here are some precautions to follow.
- Don’t confine yourself to one variety but choose several varieties
- Eat more of farmed and open-ocean fish and less of freshwater fish for they harbor fewer toxins.
- Smaller, young fish contain fewer toxins so consume them instead of larger or older fish that are more likely to have greater quantities of toxins accumulated in fatty tissues.
- Before purchasing fish, ensure you read Fish Advisories about unsafe fishing in the waters near your home.
- Swordfish and albacore contain mercury, so avoid them.
- Always wash fish thoroughly and remove skin and internal organs before consuming them
- Don’t eat fish caught for sport especially if you fish in the same water body frequently.
Here we have seen the excellent benefits of omega-3 for weight loss. While fish oil and fish products are said to demonstrate the greatest benefits, vegetarians and seafood haters need not worry. There are many omega-3 rich foods for both categories and these too provide the same weight loss benefits as seafood. They can either double their recommended daily intake of plant-based omega-3 – ALA – to about 4,400 mg or take algae-based supplements that provide the necessary EPA and DHA – found lacking in plant-based omega-3.