Remind me again why I'm supposed to take fish oil... - Diligent Fitness

Remind me again why I’m supposed to take fish oil…

31st July 2013 by Lyz Igwe Nutrition 0 comments

One of our members came to see me about a refresher course in nutrition – she’d done a course last year but wanted to tighten up on a few of the habits as she was looking to lose a few more lbs.

We got talking and I asked her if she was still taking her fish oil every day – she admitted that no, it was a habit that had slipped by the wayside over the months and asked me to remind her why it would be beneficial to start taking it again.

Taking fish oil (which refers to two fatty acids called EPA and DHA) every day is one of our cornerstone habits, in fact it’s one of the first ones we encourage our members to do as it’s benefits are so wide reaching. These omega-3’s are known as essential fatty acids because they’re necessary for our health but our bodies can’t make them. They’re popularly known for their heart health benefits but consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce inflammation, lower fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream, prevent obesity, improve the body’s response to insulin and speed up metabolism. Most benefits of fish oil come from normalising our omega-3:6 ratio, so the effects will be seen over a matter of days or weeks rather than immediately.

Speed up your metabolism & burn more fat

Researchers from the University of Western Ontario documented the fact that taking a fish oil supplement can speed up your resting metabolic rate (*see study details below) but this has no significant effect on body composition. Only when you combine fish oil supplementation with an intensive exercise routine is body composition affected due to the omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish oil (EPA & DHA) turning on your fat-burning genes and turning off your fat-storage genes.

Improve brain function & health

Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center found positive associations between fish oil supplements and cognitive functioning as well as differences in brain structure between users and non-users of fish oil supplements. There’s a reason why fish is know as brain food – fish is a rich source of DHA, a fatty acid that is found in high concentrations in our brains. It is fundamental in the functioning of brain cell membranes aiding the transmission of brain signals. Many studies have concluded that a reduced intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with age related dementia including Alzheimer’s disease – it is believed that DHA is protective against such conditions.

Reduce inflammation

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation within our bodies which may help to lower risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Because omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and most omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetable oils especially cooked ones and refined grains) tend to promote inflammation, it’s really important to make sure we get the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6s in our diets.

Get healthy-looking, clear skin

Inflammation in our bodies can result in unhealthy-looking, acne-prone skin. Dr Alan C. Logan author of excellent book The Clear Skin Diet: How to Defeat Acne and Enjoy Healthy Skin has this to say…

There are a number of ways in which fish oil and its healthy omega-3 fatty acids can benefit the skin. These essential fats are important constituents of the membranes, or outer walls, of each of our skin cells. As such, they play a critical role in normal skin structure.

The essential fats also play a role in providing a healthy “skin barrier”, which simply means they maintain well hydrated skin by to keep moisture on the inside. The most exciting area of emerging research is in the area of inflammation – most skin-related conditions, from acne to the development of fine lines and wrinkles have inflammation at the root. Fish oil contains a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory fatty acid called EPA. Studies show that fish oil, and EPA in particular, can limit inflammation, improve the appearance of the skin and protect against damaging UV rays.

It makes you feel happy!

And if you still need convincing – fish oils increase serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) levels in your body and so can decrease incidence of depression, anxiety, panic attacks plus reduce carbohydrate cravings.

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E.E. Noreen, R.J. Petrella, FACSM, P.W.R. Lemon, FACSM. (Sponsor: P.W.R. Lemon)
University of Western Ontario, London ON

Several studies have shown that rodents accumulate less body fat when fed a diet rich in fish oil (FO) when compared to an isoenergetic diet rich in other fat. However, little is known about this effect in humans. PURPOSE: 1) To determine the effect of supplemental FO on resting metabolic rate (RMR) and body composition and 2) To determine if there is a difference in response to varying doses of FO. METHODS: 32 healthy men and women (50+16 y, mean+SD) participated in this study. Baseline measurements were made following an overnight fast. Body composition was assessed by whole body densitometry using air displacement. RMR was measured by indirect calorimetry using a face mask. Blood samples were analyzed for glucose, triglycerides (TG), and insulin. 24h urine creatinine (CR) was measured. Subjects were matched for fat free mass and assigned to one of four groups: Safflower oil (SO) – 9g/d; Low FO (LFO) – 3g/d concentrated FO supplying 900 mg eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 600 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); Medium FO (MFO) – 6g/d FO supplying 1.8g EPA and 1.2g DHA per day; High FO (HFO) – 9g/d FO supplying 2.7g EPA and 1.8g DHA. All tests were repeated following 28d of treatment. RESULTS: RMR increased in all FO groups following supplementation (LFO 488+199 kcal/d, p<0.05; mean+SEM, MFO 196+48 kcal/d, p<0.1, HFO 141+83 kcal/d, p>0.1) and decreased in the SO (-65+77, p>0.1). Urinary CR excretion increased in all FO groups (LFO 30+80 mg/d, p>0.1, MFO 60+50 mg/d, p>0.1, HFO 200+100 mg/d p<0.1) and decreased in the SO (-260 +160 mg/d, p<0.05). Serum TG decreased significantly in all FO (p<0.05), with no change in SO. Body composition changes were not significant. CONCLUSION: 28d of FO supplementation increases RMR in humans; however, lean mass changes do not appear to be responsible.


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