Omegas & Weight Loss

Hit a plateau in your diet?

Try incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your routine. It may sound counter-intuitive, but these “good fats” can can keep your weight-loss plan on track and may also boost your pound-cutting capacity.

They’re essential

The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are myriad. They’ve been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people with cardiovascular disease, slow hardening of the arteries, and lower blood pressure.

These healthful properties come from two key ingredients: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Fish oil supplements and oily fish like wild salmon contain both EPA and DHA, as do vegan/vegetarian omega-3 supplements made from algae. Walnuts and vegetable oils like flaxseed, canola, soybean, and olive contain alpha linolenic acid (ALA ), which the body can partially convert into EPA and DHA.

Omega-6 fatty acids lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and protect against heart disease. But most Americans already get plenty of these healthy fats—found in safflower, corn, and soybean oils—through diet. In fact, for cardiovascular health, the ratio of omegas should be roughly 4 parts omega 3s to 1 part omega 6. Unfortunately, the typical American diet has a ratio of around 1 part omega 3 to 16 parts omega 6s. Clearly, most people need to increase their intake of omega 3s.

Battle the weight-loss slump

Some evidence indicates that as part of a weightloss plan omegas can increase the body’s capacity for shedding pounds: 

  • A 2010 study of overweight breast cancer survivors showed those on a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil (which contains the fatty acid omega 9 instead of omega 6) lost more weight than those on a standard low-fat diet.
  • A study published in the journal Appetite indicated that overweight people who were dieting felt less hungry when they took omega-3 supplements.
  • A Gettysburg College study of 44 healthy adults given supplemental fish oil for six weeks found “significantly increased lean mass and decreased fat mass.”
  • Researchers in Australia who looked at the individual and combined effects of omega-3 supplements and exercise on overweight volunteers concluded that increasing intake of essential fatty acids “could be a useful adjunct to exercise programs aimed at improving body composition and decreasing cardiovascular disease risk.”

That said, a few recent studies have found no correlation between omega supplementation and weight loss. Nevertheless, the other benefits of omega 3s will help you stay focused on weight loss and keep your body tuned up to move, whether your exercise plan calls for walking, swimming, bicycling, or dancing.

Consider that omega 3s have been used to reduce inflammation in joints, lower risk of arthritis, and promote cardiovascular health. They’re critical to brain function, and some studies have found they help reduce the symptoms of depression—which can lead to overeating or lack of exercise. In other words, you can’t go wrong when you make omega 3s part of your weight-loss regimen. (Just remember that you should always discuss supplementation with your healthcare provider.) When it comes to taking off pounds and keeping them off, make your mantra—diet, exercise, and omegas.