How fish oil omega-3 fatty acids fight obesity, inflammation and metabolic syndrome

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are well-known to be beneficial in maintaining cardiovascular and joint health, but less is known about their effects on metabolism
  • The most effective omega-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular, joint and metabolic heath are those contained in oily fish
  • Alpha linolenic acid (ALA), contained is chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts, is only converted at a rate of 5-10% into the key omega-3 actives DHA and EPA, so ALA is much less effective, contrary to popular belief.
  • The fish oil omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) act in multiple ways to help maintain metabolic heath. Specifically, EPA & DHA:
    • reduce fat accumulation in fat cells and boost fat oxidation in the liver and muscles via stimulating PPAR-alpha, thereby helping maintain healthy weight / reduce overweight and obesity
    • inhibit fat cell growth (adipocyte differentiation)
    • boost thermogenesis, i.e. the oxidation of fat in fat cells, via stimulating UCP1
    • inhibit adipose tissue inflammation (thereby also preventing cellulite; adipose tissue inflammation is one of he hallmarks of cellulite)
    • inhibit liver inflammation and whole body low grade inflammation
    • help prevent fatty liver disease (or even reduce it at intakes of 2g/day for 4+ months)
    • reduce triglycerides, VLDL and LDL cholesterol and boost the "good cholesterol" HDL
  • For maximum results, the authors of the review below, recommend 1-2g of EPA and DHA per day for 6 months, an intake which can only be achieved with daily oily fish/fish oil consumption
  • Vegan DHA and EPA are also available in supplement form, albeit in lower dosages and at more expensive price points
  • Source: Role of n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Ameliorating the Obesity-Induced Metabolic Syndrome in Animal Models and Humans.
  • Abstract: The incidence of obesity and its comorbidities, such as insulin resistance and type II diabetes, are increasing dramatically, perhaps caused by the change in the fatty acid composition of common human diets. Adipose tissue plays a role as the major energy reservoir in the body. An excess of adipose mass accumulation caused by chronic positive energy balance results in obesity. The n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) exert numerous beneficial effects to maintain physiological homeostasis. In the current review, the physiology of n-3 PUFA effects in the body is delineated from studies conducted in both human and animal experiments. Although mechanistic studies in human are limited, numerous studies conducted in animals and models in vitro provide potential molecular mechanisms of the effects of these fatty acids. Three aspects of n-3 PUFA in adipocyte regulation are discussed: (1) lipid metabolism, including adipocyte differentiation, lipolysis and lipogenesis; (2) energy expenditure, such as mitochondrial and peroxisomal fatty acid β-oxidation; and (3) inflammation, including adipokines and specialized pro-resolving lipid mediators. Additionally, the mechanisms by which n-3 PUFA regulate gene expression are highlighted. The beneficial effects of n-3 PUFA may help to reduce the incidence of obesity and its comorbidities.