There are many complementary health approaches that people use in addition to conventional medicine to improve health and well-being, address symptoms of chronic disease, or alleviate the side effects of traditional medicine. Some of the most popular include yoga, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and hypnosis. But according to the CDC, the most commonly used complementary health approach is nonvitamin, nonmineral dietary supplements. And the most widely used of these supplements is fish oil, with nearly 8% of adults and 1% of children taking them.
The popularity of fish oil may be explained by the number of medical conditions and symptoms it purportedly addresses. With so much enthusiasm for this particular nutritional supplement, you may be wondering, does fish oil help with weight loss?
Understanding the Nutritional Value of Fish Oil
National dietary guidelines recommend consuming two servings of fatty fish (for a total of 8 oz.) per week for optimal health. This is primarily based on strong evidence that the inclusion of seafood in the diet reduces cardiovascular disease risk, but both empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests myriad other benefits as well. Food sources of nutrients are generally considered superior to supplements. Since access to fresh, quality fish is not universal, however, fish oil supplements are believed to be the next best thing.
The power of fish oil is in its long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), also called omega-3s. The human body cannot produce these compounds, so dietary inclusion is essential. Though found in high concentrations in fish, shellfish, krill, and algae, they are also present in lesser amounts in grass-fed beef, turkey, and eggs. A third omega-3 is plant-based; alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in flax, chia, and pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and canola oil. A small amount of ALA may be converted to EPA and DHA in the body.
Besides the cardiovascular benefits, omega-3s play a role in brain and muscle function, growth and development, and preventing inflammation. Though deficiency is rare, symptoms may include dry skin, hair, and eyes, depression, and joint pain.
Fish Oil and Weight Loss
Several research studies have demonstrated that fish consumption can have a moderate effect on weight loss. Scientific research on fish oil supplementation, however, has yielded mixed results. The findings include:
- A literature review of animal and human studies revealed that omega-3s might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. They may provide an additional benefit by preventing weight regain following a calorie-restricted diet.
- One study with overweight young adults found that including fish or fish oil as part of a calorie-restricted diet increased weight loss in men but not in women. Consumption of lean fish, fatty fish, and fish oil supplements all yielded similar results.
- Researchers conducting a meta-analysis of studies on omega-3 use in overweight/obese subjects failed to support an exact anti-obesity role. They did, however, recommend further research as fish oil use appeared to decrease abdominal fat and the waist-to-hip ratio.
While it appears that omega-3s in fish oil may help with weight loss, the exact mechanism remains under investigation. Since eating fish is very beneficial, some researchers suggest that it is substances other than omega-3 fatty acids that provide the most benefit. Research continues to determine precisely how fish oil impacts weight loss.
If you wonder whether fish oil might help with your weight loss journey, the answer may be difficult to predict. But integrating fish oil into your daily routine is simple. Many fish oil supplements are readily available, and adding them to your diet is relatively safe. Side effects are minor for most people and may include fishy aftertaste and digestive upset. Large doses may increase the risk of bleeding, especially in those taking anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medication.
A Scientific Approach to Weight Loss
If you are looking for a science-based approach to weight loss, a comprehensive program that includes customized diet and lifestyle counseling offers the opportunity for long-term success. With in-depth nutritional coaching that goes beyond calorie counting, it can be easier to make positive dietary choices that facilitate significant change.
ShapePro is a personalized approach that offers multiple potential benefits. It begins with laboratory testing to tailor a plan to your specific needs. A registered dietician helps you develop an individualized program that supports the lifestyle you’re looking for. If indicated, your practitioner may prescribe fat-burning medications and peptides to try and enhance your weight loss efforts.
While fish oil supplements may play a role in weight loss, opt for a comprehensive plan that is designed to facilitate long-term change. Expert input adds an extra layer of support. Combining diagnostic testing with instructional counseling and ongoing support can give you the best chance for weight loss success.
If you’re wondering does fish oil help weight loss?, BodyLogicMD wants to help. The expert practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network can assess your needs and design a personalized ShapePro plan to help you achieve your health and weight loss goals—from virtually anywhere. Set up your telemedicine consultation, or take the Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about the programs offered by BodyLogicMD.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.