Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce obesity, according to a new study from Australia’s University of Newcastle.
Omega-3 levels in people who are a healthy weight are 15 percent higher than in those who are overweight, the researchers reported in the British Journal of Nutrition.
In scientific terms, the researchers say these n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, or n-3 PUFAs, “may play an important role in weight status and abdominal adiposity.” In common parlance, they mean that omega-3s might help you take off some extra pounds and get rid of that spare tire.
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are recognized as important for cardiovascular health, fending off cancer, cognitive health, eye health, and child development. Omega-3s also might have a beneficial effect on obesity, the Australian researchers theorized, so they designed a trial involving people of different sizes and weights, being careful to exclude those who took omega-3 supplements.
The researchers selected 124 adults to participate in the study, with 21 of them classified as being of normal weight according to their body mass index (BMI), 40 as overweight, and 63 as obese. After the subjects fasted for 10 hours, blood samples were taken to measure their omega-3 levels. The levels were found to be in inverse relationship to the subject’s BMI, waist size, and size of their hips. On average, the obese subjects had omega-3 levels of 4.53 percent, while subjects of normal weight had levels of 5.25 percent.
In plain language, higher omega-3 levels meant lower weight and smaller waists and hips.
Omega-3 fatty acids may aid with weight management by helping burn energy, as shown in a previous study, the research team speculated. Yet another previous study showed that omega-3s help boost the feeling of fullness in obese people because they reduce levels of hunger hormones such as leptin.
The scientists cautioned that further research is needed to determine whether omega-3s are indeed a factor in higher and lower rates of obesity. They proposed a study using omega-3 supplementation to assist weight loss and management.