Fish oil has been proven to benefit people in a number of ways, from preventing cardiovascular disease to easing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Now individuals hoping to lose a few pounds might also reap the benefits of fish oil, as results from an animal study published in Scientific Reports shows a connection between fish oil and weight loss. It appears that fish oil may transform fat cells from white to beige or brown, which affects their ability to burn fat.
Maintaining a healthy body weight depends on a healthy metabolism. Varying colors of fat cells effect metabolism in different ways. While white fat cells store fat, beige and brown fat cells metabolize fat in order to stabilize body temperature. As people get older, the numbers of beige and brown fat cells decrease, which partly explains why abdominal fat is harder to lose with age.
Japanese researchers fed certain mice a fatty diet and other mice a fatty diet supplemented with fish oil. The scientists found that the mice that consumed fish oil burned more calories, gained less weight and fat, produced lower insulin and fasting glucose levels, and showed a warmer core temperature than mice that did not receive fish oil.
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When brown fat cells generate heat to maintain body temperature, a receptor in the body of humans and mice activates a protein called UCP1. The researchers found high levels of this protein in the white fat of mice given fish oil, which suggests that the fish oil worked with the receptor to change white fat cells into fat-burning beige or brown fat cells. To confirm their hypothesis, researchers removed the receptor in certain mice and fed them fish oil. Results showed no effect on body weight or body fat.
Although this study shows promising results in mice, it may be a while before scientists can replicate fish oil-weight loss benefits in humans. Until then, people can take fish oil supplements for a variety of other health advantages.