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Exercise + Omega-3s = Perfect Weight Loss Pair
6/27/2005
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Aussie study confirms that combination sheds more pounds than either alone

by Craig Weatherby



Who knew?  After decades of looking for the perfect diet pill, research results keep turning the scientific dial in an unexpected direction: toward the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil.


The results of a new study from Down Under tie into this trend.  Professor Peter Howe and his colleagues at the University of South Australia (UniSA) study the effects of diet and exercise on the body.  In March of this year, they announced encouraging findings about the combined effects of fish oil and exercise.


The study’s design and outcome was summarized in this excerpt from the UniSA’s March, 2005 press release:


“Overweight to obese adults at heightened risk of coronary disease participated in a 12-week intervention trial that examined the effect of omega-3 fish oil taken daily in combination with moderate aerobic exercise three times a week. These people were compared with three groups taking fish oil, sunflower oil or a combination of sunflower oil and exercise.


“As well as being overweight, participants were diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms associated with obesity that include hypertension, high blood triglycerides and insulin resistance or heightened insulin levels, a precursor to diabetes.


“The results showed that the total proportion of fat in the body, particularly in the abdominal region, was reduced significantly in the FOX [fish oil plus moderate aerobic exercise] group, but not by fish oil or exercise alone.”


This is how Dr. Howe characterized the significance of his team’s findings:


“Our research showed that the fish oil and exercise (FOX) group lost significantly more fat mass than any other group in the study. Seeing the impact on body shape and body composition of these participants has been the most exciting outcome of the research. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are polyunsaturated fats that can switch on enzymes specifically involved in oxidizing or burning of fat, but they need a driver (in our case, exercise) to increase the metabolic rate in order to lower body fat."


Why would omega-3s aid weight control?

We did some digging to discover exactly why EPA and DHA—the long-chain marine omega-3s found only in fish and marine microorganisms—appear to aid weight control efforts.  Our search of the scientific literature uncovered at least seven ways in which they help:

  • Marine omega-3s stimulate secretion of leptin, a hormone that decreases appetite and promotes the burning of body fat.
  • Marine omega-3s enable burning of dietary fats by helping move fatty acids into body cells for burning as fuel.
  • Marine omega-3s encourage the body to store dietary carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, rather than as hard-to-lose body fat.
  • Marine omega-3s dampen inflammation, which is known to promote weight gain.
  • Marine omega-3s enhance blood-sugar control by increasing our insulin-producing cells’ sensitivity to sugar.
  • Marine omega-3s flip off genetic switches (nuclear transcription factors) that promote inflammation and storage of food as body fat.
  • Marine omega-3s help the body transport glucose from blood to cells by increasing the fluidity of cell membranes.

In short, fish and fish oil rank among the best dietary weight-control aids discovered to date.  The results of the new Australian study indicate that combining them with moderate aerobic exercise yields a synergistic effect that surpasses the weight control and body composition benefits of each.



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