Study pours water on omega-3 weight loss possibility

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Omega-3 fatty acids, Nutrition, Obesity

DHA and EPA omega-3 supplements may not help overweight individuals lose weight, concludes a new study that contradicts some other research – but cardiovascular benefits look to be valid.

The global obesity epidemic has led to a concentration of scientific minds on how to mitigate the expansion of waistlines, and some animal studies have suggested that omega-3 could be helpful. Some small human studies have reported some mild benefits for weight loss.

A team of researchers from The Cooper Institute in the US set out to investigate whether the addition of supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid, in conjunction with diet and exercise, would facilitate greater weight loss over a six month period.

The findings of the single-institution, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial have been published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, was to. It involved 128 individuals with a body mass of between 26 and 40. They were randomly assigned to receive either 5 omega-3 tablets a day, or five placebo tablets.

The omega 3 tablets had a 5:1 ration of EPA:DHA, with 1000mg EPA per dose and 200mg DHA per dose.

Subjects in both arms received diet and exercise counselling, and eighty one completed the full 24 week trial.

The researchers found that subjects in both arms lost more than 5 per cent of their body weight during the 24 weeks, and there were no significant differences between the two groups.

“Omega-3 fatty acids were not effective as an adjunct for weight loss in this otherwise healthy, overweight population,”​ they concluded.

However the team said that their finding does not mean omega-3 supplements are of no help at all to overweight individuals. On the contrary, they referred to previous studies on the cardiovascular benefits of the same dose of omega-3 fatty acids which concluded that they helped people enter the ‘low risk’ cardiovascular category.

“Thus, whereas one might not enhance weight loss by taking supplements with this level of omega-3 fatty acids, the protective cardiovascular effect should still be realized because of the sheer increase in blood concentrations of the fatty acids,”​ they wrote.


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.110.002741

Effects of omega-3 supplementation in combination with diet and exercise on weight loss and body composition

Laura F DeFina, Lucille G Marcoux, Susan M Devers, Joseph P Cleaver, and Benjamin L Willis

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