Losing weight with Omega-3?

The article is about whether the regular consumption of fish or omega-3 fatty acids has an influence on genetic body weight. Here we summarize the results of a recent American study on this topic, which was published in 2019 in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”.

Study Design

Genetic predisposition to obesity was defined using a genetic risk score system. Here, in each subject, those hereditary segments that may influence the body weight to height ratio were examined in more detail. On the basis of this examination, an individual risk score for genetic overweight was determined for each subject. A high risk value therefore meant that the genetic predisposition to obesity was particularly pronounced.

In addition, the subjects were divided into 4 groups based on the frequency of their fish or omega-3 consumption. Group 1 included subjects who consumed fish or omega-3 fatty acids less than once a week. Group 4, on the other hand, comprised subjects for whom fish or omega-3 fatty acids were part of their daily diet.

The effect of omega-3 fatty acids on body weight

In the results of all 3 individual studies (NHS, HPFS and WHI), it was observed that a high intake of fish as well as omega-3 fatty acids attenuated the genetically determined body weight gain. This was particularly evident in the BMI (body mass index) of the subjects, which looks at body weight in relation to height. A sufficiently high consumption of omega-3 as well as fish had a long-term positive effect on the development of BMI.

The group with the highest intake of fish and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids showed the weakest genetic influence. In other words, in this group the genetic predisposition to obesity had the least negative effect on the long-term development of BMI.

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Who doesn’t know it from their own circle of acquaintances: from the age of 40, the pointer on the scale usually points slowly but steadily upwards. One to two kilos more per year are not uncommon. Those affected are often at a loss. They cannot explain why their weight is increasing from year to year while their eating habits remain mostly unchanged, and they ask themselves how they can counteract this development.

Factors influencing body weight

Scientific studies show that steady weight gain in old age is strongly determined not only by lifestyle but also by hereditary factors. However, a growing body of data suggests that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids can attenuate genetically determined weight gain.

A recent study has therefore now investigated the relationship between a person’s individual genetic predisposition and the development of their body weight. The question was investigated whether a high fish consumption and/or a high intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids can attenuate the genetically determined body weight gain in the course of life.

The interaction between genes and habitual fish consumption was monitored and comprehensively assessed in a total of 24,000 subjects in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) over a period of more than 6 years.

So does omega-3 really make you slim?

In the study described above, the researchers came to the conclusion that a high consumption of fish or omega-3 counteracts a steady increase in weight over the course of a lifetime. In detail, it was shown that omega-3 attenuates the effect of genes that cause this development.

Omega-3 fatty acids can certainly not alone lead to a strong weight loss. Physical activity and a healthy lifestyle remain the mainstays in the therapeutic treatment of obesity. However, omega-3 fatty acids can be an important therapeutic building block.

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