You have probably heard someone raving about Omega 3 weight loss. It makes you wonder whether an Omega 3 fish oil supplement is the secret behind the trim waistlines and hourglass figures. It sounds too good to be true. Now you want to know whether there is scientific evidence that Omega 3 can help you lose weight quickly.
Fish oil supplements are some of the most common in the market. They are packed with Omega 3 fatty acids and come at different brands and prices. Researchers have identified a host of health benefits of Omega 3 consumption.
However, the jury is still out on whether Omega 3 benefits weight loss. We have compiled relevant and recent scientific studies to help you decide whether Omega 3 is impactful for losing weight.
What Are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Your body can make most of the fats it needs. It uses raw materials and fat from food to make them for special body functions. This is not the case for Omega 3 fatty acids. Your body cannot make them. So, you must get them directly from food.
Two types of Omega 3 fatty acids are widely studied (14):
- Essential Omega 3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plant sources, and is the only essential Omega 3 fatty acid;
- Long-chain Omega 3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in fish oil and seafood.
ALA can only be found in your diet. EPA and DHA can be produced by the body using ALA. However, research has proven that the human body is not efficient at EPA and DHA production (14). Only a small amount of ALA is required. This explains the popularity of fish oil supplements.
Contrary to what you may believe, your body needs fats. Not all fats are fattening – some play crucial roles in bodily functions. Without them, you can experience severe symptoms. Omega 3 is an essential nutrient that your body needs to function correctly.
You have probably heard health and fitness gurus talk about “bad” and “good” fats. Omega 3 are good fats. To simplify an otherwise lengthy, scientific explanation about carbon bonds – here is the good fat, bad fat version.
These reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. They protect against potential risks of diabetes and heart disease. Omega 3 and 6 are polyunsaturated fats that are good for you. They are found in seeds, nuts, and fish.
These are saturated and Trans fats whose consumption you should keep at a minimum. They raise bad cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. They are in many processed foods and dairy products.
How Does Omega 3 From Fish Oils Aid Weight Loss?
It is often claimed that one of the benefits of taking fish oil supplements is weight loss. Below are the arguments for Omega 3 fatty acids weight loss capabilities:
Hunger And Appetite Suppression
People on weight-loss diets often experience increased feelings of hunger. It is why fish oil Omega 3 supplements are sometimes recommended to suppress appetite. However, the hunger-suppressing effect of this nutrient may vary depending on one’s health and metabolism.
In one study, overweight and obese volunteers were put on a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (2). The control group was on a diet low in the nutrient. This study aimed to determine whether Omega 3 affects food intake. The results showed a positive correlation; the group that ate Omega 3 rich foods felt less hungry after a while.
In another study, healthy adults were given fish oil supplements and had their appetites monitored (9). The control group was given soybean oil as a placebo. The people taking fish oil felt less full and had the urge to eat more than those in the control group.
The research findings on Omega 3 for hunger and appetite suppression are conflicting. However, one study’s results imply that it may be more effective in overweight and obese people (16). According to the research, Omega 3 makes people with metabolic syndrome lose weight by suppressing their appetite.
A high metabolic rate means you burn more calories each day. It also means that you can keep the weight off over time. Several studies have proven that Omega 3 can help increase your metabolism. The effect of this nutrient on metabolism has been observed in healthy young adults and healthy older women (12) (21).
Boosting Calories Burned Through Exercise
Research suggests that Omega 3 may increase calories burned during exercise. The nutrients trigger your body to use fat storage rather than carbohydrates as an energy source during exercise. In one study, women who took fish oil daily burned more calories than women who didn’t (12). It is why fish oil supplements taken while on an exercise regimen are an effective weight loss strategy (6).
In most studies where fish oil did not enable weight loss, it encouraged fat loss and muscle building. Although participants’ weights remained unchanged, they witnessed a reduction in waist circumference (8). Their waist to hip ratios also reduced. So, fish oil might help you go down a dress size or two with diet and exercise.
Note that muscles burn more calories than fat. So, as you build muscle while taking fish oil supplements, you use up more energy. With the right lifestyle changes, you may eventually see progress on the weighing scale.
A study published in the International Journal Of Obesity attributes Omega 3’s weight loss benefits to insulin suppression (11). Two groups of participants were fed the same diet with the difference of fish oil. The group that took fish oil lost more fat and had a higher metabolic rate than the control group.
The insulin levels were 50% lower for the group that took fish oil (11). Insulin reduces fat burning and promotes fat storage when one consumes calories. It inhibits the action of lipase which breaks down fat into energy. It also activates an enzyme that converts carbohydrates into fat. Therefore, a drop in insulin translates to more fat burn.
How Much Omega 3 Per Day for Weight Loss?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, healthy adults should take a minimum of 250-500 mg of Omega 3 per day (7). One could say this is the ideal Omega 3 weight loss dosage. However, certain health conditions may demand higher intake. Below are some conditions that require a higher or lower intake of supplements:
- Heart disease – 2000 – 4000mg daily
- Depression and anxiety – 200 – 2,200mg daily
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding – 200mg daily
- Infancy and childhood – 50 – 100mg daily
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Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplements Overdose
In most studies on Omega 3 and weight loss, participants consumed no more than 3,000mg of the nutrient. This would be a safe daily intake, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (14). However, other reputable organizations such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommend daily intakes of up to 5,000mg (19).
Technically, you cannot overdose on Omega 3 fish oil. However, there are some safety concerns about overconsuming the supplement. It has a blood-thinning effect which can be dangerous (14). A person who is taking blood-thinning medication is at risk of over bleeding if he or she exceeds the recommended daily intake of Omega 3.
Pregnant and young women can suffer toxicity from high amounts of vitamin A that are in some supplements (5). Not all fish oil supplements are pure; they may contain other ingredients you are unaware of. The best supplements are those that comprise at least 50% EPA and DHA (1).
What Is the Best Time To Take Omega 3 for Weight Loss?
There is no bad time of day to take Omega 3 supplements for weight loss. However, some scientific evidence suggests that Omega 3 absorption is aided by fatty meals. In one study, researchers found that fat-rich meals made the perfect conditions for quick Omega 3 fatty acid absorption (20). In another study, low-fat meals inhibited the absorption of these nutrients (4).
What time you take Omega 3 depends on your diet. If you eat a low-fat breakfast, avoid taking the supplement at that time. You can take it with lunch or dinner. Because of the potential gastrointestinal side effects of these supplements, you may want to take them in small doses at different times of the day.
Below are some side effects of taking Omega 3 supplements:
- Unpleasant taste
- Unpleasant breath
- Bad smelling sweat
Sources Of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are present in plant and animal sources. They can also be consumed in a supplement form. You can have a look at the nutrient sources and how much Omega 3 they contain below.
Animal Sources Of Omega 3
Fatty, oily fish is packed with two types of Omega 3. The high DHA and EPA content in these fish make up for your body’s inefficient use of ALA. For each fish listed below, the Omega 3 content is per 100-gram serving (1), (22), (13).
- Mackerel – 5,134 mg
- Salmon – 2,260 mg
- Cod liver oil – 2,682 mg
- Herring – 2,366 mg
- Oysters – 435 mg
- Sardines – 1,480 mg
- Anchovies – 2,113 mg
- Caviar – 6,786 mg
- Shrimp – 2,000 mg
- Trout – 2,000 mg
- Sea bass – 650 mg
- Striped bass – 800 grams
- Albacore tuna – 1500 mg
- Canned tuna – 500 mg
- Halibut – 900 mg
Some fatty fish have a high level of mercury. Mercury exists in the environment and also results from industrial pollution. It accumulates in large water bodies. An increased consumption of mercury can be harmful especially for pregnant women, unborn, and young children.
Some fish have more mercury than others. Swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark are examples of fish with high mercury content. Everyone should minimize their intake of these types of seafood. Children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women should avoid eating them.
Plant Sources Of Omega 3
Fish is the best source of Omega 3 fatty acids. However, some plants have it too. Plant sources have ALA, an essential Omega 3 fatty acid broken down into DHA and EPA. So, if you are on a vegetarian diet, these sources will help you get the required amount of Omega 3 (1), (22), (13).
- Chia seeds – 5055 mg
- Hemp seeds – 2605 mg
- Flaxseeds – 6703 mg
- Walnuts – 3346 mg per cup
- Edamame – 280mg
- Kidney beans – 100mg per cup
- Soybean oil – 923 mg per tsp
Omega 3 Supplements
People who cannot meet their dietary requirements through plant or fish sources can use supplements. There are several Omega 3 fatty acid supplements to choose from. Below are some common types (1).
- Fish oil
- Krill oil
- Cod liver oil
- Algae oil
- ALA supplements
Each brand has a different amount of Omega 3. It is important to read labels and know which additional ingredients are in the supplement. Cod liver oil, for example, contains vitamin A that may be dangerous for pregnant women in high doses. Some supplements contain gelatin that is not suitable for vegans.
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Other Health Benefits of Consuming Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Including Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet can have many health benefits. Other than aiding weight loss, these acids play a role in cardiovascular health and overall wellbeing. Below are some benefits of regularly consuming Omega 3.
Improves Symptoms Of Depression And Anxiety
The brain requires Omega 3 for proper function. Consuming sufficient amounts of this nutrient can alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety. According to a meta-analysis of 26 studies, there is a 17% lower risk of depression in people who eat fatty fish often (14).
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Omega 3 fats help the heartbeat at a steady rhythm. They prevent erratic and potentially fatal heart function. They also lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function.
At high doses, Omega 3 fatty acids lower the level of triglycerides which often result in heart disease. Research has proven that people who take Omega 3 fatty acids supplements regularly are less likely to have a coronary event such as cardiac death and heart attack (14).
Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory acids that help manage serious health conditions. The fatty acids inhibit enzymes that cause tissue damage and swelling. These enzymes also cause chronic inflammation. High blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer are examples of conditions linked to chronic inflammation.
Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Several controlled studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have low DHA levels (14). Because DHA is an important cellular membrane component in the brain, Omega 3 consumption helps maintain neuronal function.
By supplementing this essential fat, one prevents the development of the disease. Although the supplement cannot help people who already have the disease, it can improve the symptoms for those with mild impairment.
Improves Cognitive Function
Omega 3 fatty acids are responsible for nourishing brain cell membranes. The fats maintain cell integrity and maintain cognitive functions. In several studies, healthy adults taking Omega 3 consistently have a higher cognitive function after 5 years (14). The supplement has the most impact on adults who are less than 70 years of age.
Delicious Omega 3 Weight Loss Recipes
This recipe combines the goodness of fatty fish with the texture of walnuts. Both main ingredients are great sources of Omega 3 fats.
- 2 tbsp ground walnuts
- 2tbsp ground flaxseed
- 2tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg
- 2, 6-ounce tuna fillets
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Mix walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and black pepper in a bowl.
- Whisk the egg.
- Coat the tuna filet with egg and press into the walnut mixture.
- Transfer filets onto a 7-by-11 baking dish.
- Bake until the fish cooks through (roughly 10 to 12 minutes).
Pan-Roasted Salmon with Snap Peas
The marinade in this recipe amplifies the flavor of salmon. It is a refreshing dish that can be had hot or at room temperature.
- 6, 6-ounce salmon fillets with skin on
- 2 tbsp minced ginger
- 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ pound snap peas
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 5 tbsp chopped mint
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
- Mix the ginger, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar to make the marinade.
- Place the salmon in a deep dish, pour the marinade and let it sit at room temperature.
- Boil 2 quarts water and add the snap peas
- Cook peas until tender, drain in a colander, and run cold water to refresh.
- Whisk the mint and olive oil.
- Coat the snap peas in mint dressing.
- Sear the salmon in a hot pan with olive oil, skin side down.
- Serve on a platter with steamed brown rice.
Omega 3 fatty acids could help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism and encouraging fat burn during and after exercise. They also promote muscle development. However, Omega 3 works when taken alongside a balanced diet and exercise. Although fatty fish is the best source of this nutrient, supplements can be an option to consider. It is advisable to read the ingredient label carefully before purchasing Omega 3 supplementation.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 12 Foods That Are Very High in Omega-3 (2019, healthline.com)
- A diet rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids modulates satiety in overweight and obese volunteers during weight loss (2008, pubmed.gov)
- A tasty way to get your omega-3s (2019, medicalxpress.com)
- Achieving optimal essential fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications (2003, nih.gov)
- Can Omega-3 Fish Oil Help You Lose Weight? (2017, healthline.com)
- Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors (2007, pubmed.gov)
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010, health.gov)
- Does Fish Oil Have an Anti-Obesity Effect in Overweight/Obese Adults? A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials (2015, nih.gov)
- Fish oil-supplementation increases appetite in healthy adults. A randomized controlled cross-over trial (2013, pubmed.gov)
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- Omega 3 Fish Oil and Weight Loss (2020, scholaridea.com)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for 12 Weeks Increases Resting and Exercise Metabolic Rate in Healthy Community-Dwelling Older Females (2015, nih.gov)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (2019, my.clevelandclinic.org)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (2020, nih.gov)
- Omega-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular disease–an uphill battle (2015, pubmed.gov)
- Omega-3 fatty acids: a review of the effects on adiponectin and leptin and potential implications for obesity management (2013, pubmed.gov)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution (n.d, harvard.edu)
- Pan-Roasted Salmon Served with Minty Snap Peas (n.d, harvard.edu)
- Scientific Opinion on the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) (2012, efsa.europa.eu)
- Strategies to improve bioavailability of omega-3 fatty acids from ethyl ester concentrates (2019, pubmed.gov)
- Variable effects of 12 weeks of omega-3 supplementation on resting skeletal muscle metabolism (2014, nih.gov)
- What are the best sources of omega-3? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- When to take fish oil for better health (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)