Alan C. Logan, ND
All fats are not equal. Although they each have nine calories per gram, the way fats are stored and their ability to be used as an energy source differ significantly.
All fats are not equal. Although they each have nine calories per gram, the way fats are stored and their ability to be used as an energy source differ significantly. Omega-3 fatty acids, it turns out, are most readily used as an energy source and can actually promote weight loss.
Polyunsaturated fats from fish are stored preferentially in lean muscle tissue. The opposite can be said of saturated fats such as those found in meat, dairy, and fried foods. These saturated fats are a poor energy source, readily sent to storage (usually in the abdominal region), and once in storage, are difficult to remove.
Research clearly shows that North Americans are under-consuming the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA) by at least 500 to 600 mg a day. This is largely a result of the dominance of omega-6 linoleic acid-rich oils in the North American food supply, a percentage that has grown a thousand-fold over the past century. A number of studies are now suggesting that these large-scale dietary changes are not without consequence to body weight.
A study published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology(Online) in 2004 showed that three weeks of fish oil supplementation in active adults actually increased total fat breakdown during physical activity. This effect was observed only when fish oils were taken on a regular basis.
Additional research published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2000 showed that n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can prevent body fat accumulation by altering gene expression. Although only experimental in nature, this study suggests that the types of dietary fat chosen can influence obesity even in the face of genetic susceptibilities.
Exciting new research also suggests that omega-3 from fish oil can regulate the part of the brain that registers the feeling of fullness. If you are currently on a weight loss program, you should be making every effort to supplement with omega-3 fatty acids. After all, they are essential and cannot be manufactured by your body.
Due to the well-documented health benefits of dietary fish and fish oil preparations and our current sub-par intake, supplementation may be worthwhile. Don't worry about those unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects sometimes associated with fish oil capsules thankfully, enteric-coated fish oil preparations are now available in Canada.
Did You Know?
Traditionally, a diet high in fat has been considered the predisposing factor in developing obesity because dietary fat affects both energy intake (high in calories) and energy expenditure (less readily available as fuel). A balance of energy intake and energy expenditure is essential to controlling human body fat.