Omega 3 EPA information

Omega 3 Fish Oil Weight Loss

Fat burning foods to help weight loss without eating less or exercising more...

Did you know there are fat burning foods that can actually increase the number of fat calories your body burns each day?

Just like turning up the volume control on your TV or stereo, these fat burning foods can increase both your metabolic rate and the number of fat calories your body burns for energy — making permanent fat loss faster and easier.

Fat burning foods

Although fat burning foods are important for anyone who wants to lose weight and keep it off for good, they're vital if you're one of these people who find it hard to lose weight. No matter how much exercise you do or how hard you diet, your genetics play a pivotal role in determining how fast you lose weight.

Some evidence for this comes from research published by Claude Bouchard and Angelo Tremblay [13]. A group of identical twins took part in an exercise program for 93 days. At the end of the program, the results showed massive variations in the rate of fat loss. One set of twins, for example, lost only 4.4 pounds during the study. In contrast, a second set of twins were able to lose almost 18 pounds. This is despite the fact both sets of twins followed the same exercise program.

Genetic differences also affect how much weight you gain when you eat too much. This time, 12 groups of identical twins were overfed for 100 days. One set of twins gained 29 pounds. A second set, however, gained only 13 pounds — even though both sets of twins were overfed with the same number of calories. Of course, fat burning foods won't compensate entirely for genetic differences from person to person. They will, however, make fighting fat a lot easier.

Fatty acids and weight loss

One of the easiest ways to encourage your body to burn more fat is simply to eat more of it! This doesn't mean that you can eat an unlimited amount of fat and expect to lose weight. However, the right type of fat, in the right amount, can serve as a potent fat burning food.
There are two different groups of fatty acids — essential and non-essential fatty acids. There are also two types of essential fatty acids — omega-3 and omega-6. Essential fatty acids need to be provided by your diet. Think of them a little like oxygen. Your body simply can't live without them.

Over the past two decades, numerous studies have highlighted the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet. Dr. Ralph Holman, writing in the Journal of Nutrition, describes the case of a young girl given a diet where the only essential fats came from omega-6 fatty acids. She suffered from blurred vision, weakness, and an inability to walk. The symptoms eased, however, when omega-3 fatty acids were added to her diet.

It's rare for a diet to contain no omega-3 fatty acids. However, the diet most people eat is too high in omega-6 fatty acids, and too low in omega-3 fatty acids. Because the amount of fish in the typical diet is far less than it used to be, the intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids has declined over the past 100 years. Many animals are also fed grains containing omega-6 fatty acids. Consequently, the omega-3 fatty acid content in meat has dropped substantially.

What's more, the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the average diet has risen. Current dietary guidelines recommend that you cut down on your intake of saturated fat, and eat more polyunsaturated fat. Unfortunately, these guidelines have led to excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, as traditional sources of fat (such as butter) have been replaced with vegetable oils (sunflower oil and corn oil, for example).

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids compete with each other for the enzymes that regulate their conversion to their longer-chain forms. So, if there are too many omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, the fat content in your cells and tissues becomes "unbalanced".

Hydrogenated oils

Trans-fatty acids are formed in varying amounts when oil is transformed to a semisolid or solid state. This process is known as hydrogenation [pronounced high-drodge-en-ay-shun]. The problem with hydrogenation is that it changes the original oil into a form that your body wasn't really designed to use. Because it doesn't recognize trans-fatty acids as "foreign", your body still uses them to "build" various parts of your cells.

Unfortunately, trans-fatty acids interfere with the metabolism of the essential fatty acids (such as omega-3, and omega-6) that are so important to your health. As far back as the 1970's, animal research by Ralph Holman and colleagues showed that trans-fatty acids appear to intensify deficiencies in essential fatty acids [6]. What's more, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows a strong link between trans-fatty acids and coronary heart disease [6].

A fatty acid is simply a chain of carbon atoms with a few hydrogen and oxygen atoms attached. Hydrogenation involves taking fat that starts out as an unsaturated liquid (usually some kind of vegetable oil) and adding hydrogen. Industrial hydrogenation involves heating oil to extremely high temperatures, mixing it with nickel powder, and forcing hydrogen through it. During hydrogenation, variable amounts of the unsaturated fatty acids that are not hydrogenated are converted into trans-fatty acids.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration define hydrogenated oil as one that is solid at room temperature. Partially hydrogenated oil is defined as liquid at room temperature. Partially hydrogenated oils are usually lower in trans-fatty acids. The idea behind the hydrogenation of oil was to transform it into a product such as margarine, which could be used in place of butter. The increase in the use of hydrogenated oils has occurred in part because of consumer demand for low-fat foods that containing little or no saturated fat.

You'll find hydrogenated oils and trans-fatty acids in most margarines, and foods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, and chips. Hydrogenation makes foods such as margarines and puddings appear creamier. This means they can be spread more easily. If a spread hadn't been hydrogenated, it would still be a liquid oil.

Hydrogenated oils also have a far longer shelf life than most oils. This means that a product containing a hydrogenated oil can remain on the shelf of your local food store for a longer period without becoming rancid. A rancid fat is one that smells and tastes bad — caused by a partial breakdown of the fat's molecular structure. Products made with saturated fat actually have a long shelf life, because saturated fat is relatively "stable". The fats used by many restaurants for deep-frying are also hydrogenated. Again, this is because they're less likely to become rancid.

The good news is that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (in relatively small amounts) can help to correct the imbalances caused by a diet high in both omega-6 and trans-fatty acids. What's more, a French research team has shown that making small (but important) changes to the type of fat you eat can increase the activity of several "fat-burning" enzymes.
Recent animal studies, for example, show that the addition of fish oil (which is high in omega-3 fatty acids) to a diet can actually reduce body fat, even when food intake is kept constant [2, 4]. More interesting still, the addition of fish oil to a human diet appears to have a similar effect [3].

Fat loss

Publishing their findings in the International Journal of Obesity, the researchers wanted to establish whether fish oil would increase the number of fat calories burned each day.
During the first three weeks of the study, test subjects were allowed to eat what they wanted. Three months later, they were fed a diet containing exactly the same number of calories. The only difference was that six grams of visible fats (butter, olive oil, sunflower oil and peanut oil) were replaced with six grams of fish oil.

  • The fish oil was given in the form of eight capsules of 750 milligrams each (two capsules at breakfast, three capsules at lunch, and three capsules at dinner).
  • Total daily intake of docosahexaenoic acid (known as DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (called EPA) was 1.1, and 0.7 grams, respectively, for a total of 1.8 grams of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids daily.

The table below shows you the changes in fat oxidation, body fat, and metabolic rate after three weeks with or without fish oil.

Measure With fish oil Without fish oil
Body fat - 2 pounds - 0.7 pounds
Daily metabolic rate 1,775 calories 1,710 calories

The results also show that test subjects using the fish oil burned approximately 1.1 milligram of fat per kilogram per minute. This was approximately 26% higher than when they weren't using the fish oil.


There are several explanations as to why omega-3 fatty acids have such a powerful effect on fat metabolism. Firstly, insulin levels were 50% lower when subjects used the fish oil. Insulin is a hormone that reduces the use of fat for fuel, while also promoting fat storage in the presence of excess calories.

  • Insulin increases the activity of an enzyme known as lipoprotein lipase. When it's expressed in adipose tissue (body fat), lipoprotein lipase promotes the storage of fat [9].
  • Insulin inhibits the action of hormone sensitive lipase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down stored fat and preparing it for use as energy.
  • Insulin also activates an enzyme called acetyl co-enzyme A carboxylase [10], which, along with fatty acid synthase, is responsible for converting carbohydrate into fat.

Simply put, high levels of insulin make it less likely that your body will use stored fat as a fuel source. The drop in insulin levels when subjects used the fish oil would have allowed more fat to be used for energy.


Your body is made up of millions of tiny cells. Think of each cell like a miniature city. Inside each "city", you'll find the power stations of the cell — known as the mitochondria (pronounced my-toe-kon-dree-a). It's inside the mitochondria where fat is eaten up and turned into energy.
In order for fat to get into the mitochondria, it needs help from an enzyme called carnitine. Carnitine "drags" fat into the mitochondria, where it gets burned for energy. As carnitine activity rises, so does the amount of fat your body uses for fuel. What's exciting about omega-3 fatty acids is that they increase the activity of enzymes that burn fat (including carnitine), while reducing the activity of enzymes that store fat [1].

Although increasing the amount of fatty fish that you eat is one way to get more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, fish at the top of the food chain (such as shark or swordfish, and to a lesser extent, tuna) contain large amounts of mercury. Because mercury is toxic to both humans and animals, many have turned to foods such as flaxseed oil or walnuts as an alternative to fish.
These foods are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which is the "parent" fatty acid to DHA and EPA (DHA and EPA are the fatty acids found in fish oil). Your body converts alpha-linolenic acid rapidly into EPA, and more slowly into DHA. Roughly 11 grams of alpha-linolenic acid is needed to produce one gram of DHA and EPA [5]. However, the conversion rate can be unreliable and restricted, and depends on several factors.

  • With a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids (a typical Western diet), the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to DHA and EPA is reduced by 40 to 50% [7].
  • Trans-fatty acids (found in foods such as cookies, margarine's, chips, cakes, and popcorn) also interfere with the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to DHA and EPA.

In fact, a recent trial shows that four weeks of supplementation with 20 grams of flaxseed oil each day was not enough to raise DHA levels in lactating women [14]. A combination of foods (or supplements) rich in EPA and DPA, together with foods or food supplements high in alpha-linolenic acid, appears to be the best way to optimize your intake of omega-3 fatty acids [8].

The bottom line

Your daily consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids should be 1-2 grams per day. To put this number in context, 100 grams of salmon (about the same size as the palm of your hand) contains 1-2 grams of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

To ensure you're getting the right amount of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, make sure to check the label of any fish oil supplement you use.

It's extremely difficult to tell whether you're getting the right balance of fats in your diet. However, Udo Erasmus, author of Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill, writes that an adequate intake of essential fats will leave your skin feeling "soft and velvety."

Back in the 1940's and 1950's, infant eczema due to a diet deficient in essential fatty acids was a real medical problem [12]. Case studies do show that a deficiency in alpha-linolenic acid can lead to symptoms such as skin atrophy, and scaly dermatitis. Supplementation with alpha-linolenic acid and fish oil, however, can improve these symptoms in just 10 days [11]. As such, the condition of your skin could be a useful guide as to whether you're consuming the right balance of essential fatty acids.

Fish oil capsules may also prolong bleeding time slightly. As such, people with bleeding disorders or those taking blood-thinning medications should be cautious about the use of fish oil capsules.

Daily doses of more than 15 grams should be discussed with a health professional. Before using fish oil, make sure to check whether it will interact with any medication that you're using. Integrative Medicine has published fact sheets on docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, both of which provide detailed information on possible interactions between fish oils and certain drugs.


1. Clarke, S.D. (2000). Polyunsaturated fatty acid regulation of gene transcription: a mechanism to improve energy balance and insulin resistance. British Journal of Nutrition, 83, S59-S66
2. Clouet, P., Niot, I., Gresti, J., Demarquoy, J., Boichot, J., Durand, G., & Bezard, J. (1995). Polyunsaturated n-3 and n-6 fatty acids at a low level in the diet alter mitochondrial outer membrane parameters in Wistar rat liver. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 6, 626-634
3. Couet, C., Delarue, J., Ritz, P., Antoine, J-M., & Lamisse, F. (1997). Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults. International Journal of Obesity, 21, 637-643
4. Cunnane, S.C., McAdoo, K.R., & Horrobin, D.F. (1986). N-3 essential fatty acids decrease weight gain in genetically obese mice. British Journal of Nutrition, 56, 87-95
5. Simopoulos, A.P. (1999). Essential fatty acids in health and chronic disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70, 560-569S
6. Hu, F.B., Stampfer, M.J., Manson, J.E., Rimm, E., Colditz, G.A., Rosner, B.A., Hennekens, C.H., & Willett, W.C. (1997). Dietary fat intake and the risk of coronary heart disease in women. New England Journal of Medicine, 337, 1491-1499
7. Gerster, H. (1998). Can adults adequately convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)? International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 68, 159-173
8. Mantzioris, E., James, M.J., Gibson, R.A., & Cleland, L.G. (1994). Dietary substitution with an alpha-linolenic acid-rich vegetable oil increases eicosapentaenoic acid concentrations in tissues. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59, 1304-1309
9. Pedersen, S.B., Bak, J.F., Holck, P., Scmitz, P., & Richelsen, B. (1999). Epinephrine stimulates human muscle lipoprotein lipase activity in vivo. Metabolism, 48, 461-464
10. Dunlop, M., & Court, J.M. (1978). Lipogenesis in developing human adipose tissue. Early Human Development, 2, 123-130
11. Bjerve, K.S., Fischer, S., Wammer, F., & Egeland, T. (1989). alpha-Linolenic acid and long-chain omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in three patients with omega-3 fatty acid deficiency: effect on lymphocyte function, plasma and red cell lipids, and prostanoid formation. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 49, 290-300
12. Holman, R.T. (1998). The slow discovery of the importance of omega-3 essential fatty acids in human health. Journal of Nutrition, 128, 427S-433S
13. Bouchard, C., & Tremblay, A. (1997). Genetic influences on the response of body fat and fat distribution to positive and negative energy balances in human identical twins. Journal of Nutrition, 127, 943S-947S
14. Francois, C.A., Connor, S.L., Bolewicz, L.C., & Connor, W.E. (2003). Supplementing lactating women with flaxseed oil does not increase docosahexaenoic acid in their milk. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 77, 226-233
15. Helland, I.B., Smith, L., Saarem, K., Saugstad, O.D., & Drevon, C.A. (2003). Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children's IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics, 111, e39-e44
16. Wainwright, P.E. (2002). Dietary essential fatty acids and brain function: a developmental perspective on mechanisms. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 61, 61-69
17. Hill, E.G., Johnson, S.B., & Holman, R.T. (1979). Intensification of essential fatty acid deficiency in the rat by dietary trans fatty acids. Journal of Nutrition, 109, 1759-1765
With kind permission from The Facts About Fitness.

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