Fish oil supplements, rich in omega-3 fats, have long been believed to have many health benefits. And now there is more scientific evidence into what that may be. Japanese scientists, in a new research published in journal Scientific Reports, have found fish oil to aid in weight loss – in mice.
And if fish oil is able to do the same for us humans, it may help in burning the belly fat in overweight and obese people who are in their 30’s and 40’s. At an age, when our fat-burning cells are in lesser supply.
How was this research conducted?
Researchers from Kyoto University, Japan fed two groups of ‘mice’ with fatty food. While one group was given only fatty food, the other group was given fatty food with fish oil additives.
What are the key findings of the research?
The results reveal how the animals that consumed the food with fish oil gained 5 to 10% less weight and 15 to 25% less fat – a significant reduction in the circumstances.
The findings suggest that fish oil is able to transform fat-storage cells into fat-burning cells.
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But why does this happen?
The study outlined three types of fat cells. The first, called “white” cells, keep fat for energy supply maintenance. The second type called “brown” cells, digest fat so the body can maintain a constant temperature. The number of brown cells decreases with age, explaining the increased difficulty in losing weight towards adulthood.
The third type was found recently in both mice and humans. Called “beige” cells, they function like brown cells and also reduce in number as a person hits middle age. Beige cells metabolize fat to prevent it from building up in the body.
The researchers concluded that fish oil activates receptors in the digestive tract, which fires up the sympathetic nervous system and activates fat storing cells to burn fat. In other words, the fish oil causes white cells to transform into beige cells, effectively turning fat-storage tissue into fat-metabolizing tissue. This leads to increased energy expenditure which in turn may lead to weight loss.
Does this new study matter?
It is too early to confirm the effect of fish oil on human fat cells and further studies are needed to indicate a link which may lead to a major breakthrough in the management of obesity. What’s significant about the results, is that the researchers discovered the mechanism by which fish oil caused weight loss and brown fat production—at least in mice.
As a rule of thumb, it may be beneficial to include more oily fish in your diet to reap benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids than consuming fish oil supplements.