A study carried out by a group of scientists from Iceland, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands which was published in 2007 in the International Journal of Obesity, addresses that very topic.
The results have been interesting – although not surprising. In the trial all subjects went on an energy restricted diet and then split into four groups, a control group which was supplemented with sunflower oil capsules and no seafood, a second group was put on lean fish (cod), third group on fatty fish (Salmon).
Both the lean fish and fatty fish group was served fish portions of 150 gr. three times a week. The last group went on Fish oil capsules and no seafood in their diet.
The study found that young overweight men who added fish or fish oil to their diet would lose* about 1 kg. More than the sunflower group on a 4 week diet period. Now why is it that the results only has a positive impact on men and why does it differ at all ?
First of all, I do not think that there is such a difference in the results. All the trial report itself states is that the energy restriction of 30% with women was less than men because their energy requirement was estimated lower.
The results of the trial also show that the women overall lost less than the men, and there could be a connection here. In general, women also lose* weight slower than men over short periods due to two things,
1. The female hormonal system is designed to store fat and
2. Testosterone – The male sex hormone is an incredible fat burner. So had the study been conducted over a longer timeframe then, I believe that we would have seen similar results with the women.
It should also be noted that the subjects on fish oil capsules were given 6 capsules/day which is a very low dosage.
So if we assume the premises of the trial, then why would we lose* weight faster when adding fish or fish oil to our diet?
The answer might very well be buried in chronic inflammation. We know for a fact that Omega 3 fatty acids are anti inflammatory. We also know for a fact that the amount of inflammation in our body is directly mirrored to our obesity level, as fat cells build inflammatory inducing cytokines.
Hence an overweight person is given to have a corresponding inflammatory response in his or her body. Several studies have already shown this.
There are several ways to measure and estimate the levels of chronic inflammation in the body – one of them is fairly easy and can be done at home. That is the Omega 3 to 6 ratio test.
If the Omega 6 level is significantly higher than your Omega 3 level than that is corresponding to your inflammation level. Another way to measure inflammation has to be done in a lab and is measuring C Reactive Protein.
This protein is highly inflammatory and is linked to the above mentioned correlation between inflammation and weight gain as well as with the inability to lose* weight.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004, investigated exactly this – the C Reactive Protein levels in older obese adults and the study showed that inflammation went down ( measured on C Reactive protein) as the weight went down.
Again implicating that someone’s obesity level also reference their inflammation level.
Now when looking into inflammation as an obstruction from weight loss* a group of researchers explained this in a study report that was first published in the European Cytokine Network Journal in March 2006.
In the report, they looked at a number of obesity related factors that is influenced by chronic inflammation. One of the issues they looked into was Leptin. Leptin is a hormone that regulates our energy balance.
Leptin does this by signaling when we should eat and when we do not need to eat anymore – thus the feeling of hunger.
The report states that if you have inflammation in your adipose tissue (fat cells ) then that equally corresponds with raised Leptin levels – which in itself means you will have an elevated feeling of hunger.
Another issue that the report covered is TNF-a – a pro-inflammatory cytokine that is produced by adipose tissue can result in insulin resistance.
An elevated level of TNF-a has been noticed in obese humans, and a theory about how this happens is a mix between the cytokine produced by the adipose tissue and the influence of Leptin.
The report also looked at Interleukin 6 which is a pro inflammatory cytokine produced in a number of different cells, among them the adipose tissue.
It’s been observed that the Interleukin 6 that derives from adipose tissue is around 15-30% of circulating Interleukin 6 in obese individuals.
The report draws a clear correlation between the fat derived Interleukin 6 and cardiovascular disease as well as insulin resistance.
The study is interesting in the respect that it places weight loss* in a completely different light. In the past we thought that weight loss* was just a matter of calories in minus calories out.
Naturally, that means something as well – however, it appears that the reason why so many people fail on a diet is because we got it all wrong.
Looking at inflammation and it’s effect on weight loss* – we might need to change our approach and rather than just treating the calorie part – we should first or at least simultaneously treat* the inflammation that naturally comes along with obesity.
Because as a clear picture is formed from these studies and we are aware that inflammation causes Leptin to go up, telling you constantly that you are hungry, simultaneously as inflammation increases* your insulin resistance then we can tell you over and over and over to not exceed 1500 – 2000 calories, you will continue to be hungry and ignoring it will just cause you to eat the wrong thing eventually.
That is where fish oil comes in. Fish oil is highly anti inflammatory, and it is my clear belief that the reason for the outcome in the first cited a study that showed an increase* in weight loss* by 1 kg.
over four weeks is because the fish oil is dealing with the inflammation while you are dealing with your calories and exercise.
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2. Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content
3. Recent advances in the relationship between obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance