Fish oil may burn fat faster than weight loss pills for obese people in their 30s and 40s, Kyoto University researchers report.
Research found that omega-3 fats in fish oil turned ‘bad’ fat cells into healthy ones, which specialise in burning off calories.
The number of these “good” fat cells starts to fall around middle-age – meaning the finding could be of particular value to those whose waistlines are becoming larger as they grow older. The Japanese research centred around two types of body fat.
Fat tissues do not all store fat. So called “white” cells store fat in order to maintain energy supply while “brown” cells metabolise fat to maintain a stable body temperature.
Brown cells are abundant in babies but decrease in number with maturity into adulthood.
A third type of fat cell “beige” cells have recently been found in humans and mice, and have shown to function much like brown cells.
Beige cells also reduce in number as people approach middle age and without these metabolising cells, fat continues accumulating for decades without ever being used.
Time to buy some fish oil
“We knew from previous research that fish oil has tremendous health benefits, including the prevention of fat accumulation,” said senior author Teruo Kawada. “We tested whether fish oil and an increase in beige cells could be related.”
During testing, the team fed one group of mice fatty foods and other groups fatty food with fish oil additives. The results are music to our dieting earsthe mice that ate the fish oil gained 5-10 percent less weight and 15-25 percent less fat compared to the other group.
Researchers say that fish oil activates receptors in the digestive tract, which fires up the sympathetic nervous system and induces storage cells to metabolise fat. In other words, the fish oil causes white cells to transform into beige cells, effectively turning fat-storage tissue into fat-metabolising tissue and leading to increased energy expenditure at the expense of weight gain and fat accumulation. This is good to know.
It’s too soon to say whether these findings also apply to humans, but further studies may show just that, which the researchers believe could contribute to an effective treatment for obesity.
“People have long said that food from Japan and the Mediterranean contribute to longevity, but why these cuisines are beneficial was up for debate,” said Kawada. “Now we have better insight into why that may be.”