Omega-3 fatty acids protect against the development of obesity-related disease

An article published online on March 23, 2011 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals a protective effect for high omega-3 fatty acid intake against the development of diseases related to obesity, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

For the current study, Zeina Makhoul, PhD and her colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in collaboration with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, evaluated data from 330 Yup’ik Eskimos. Omega-3 fatty acid intake among the Yup’iks averages twenty times higher than most Americans.

Triglycerides, glucose, insulin, leptin and C-reactive protein (CRP, a marker of inflammation) were measured in the participants’ blood samples, and dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for the intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from such sources as salmon, sardines and other fatty fish. Among subjects with lower blood levels of EPA and DHA, having a high body mass index was correlated with high triglycerides and C-reactive protein, both of which are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly diabetes. “These results mimic those found in populations living in the Lower 48 who have similarly low blood levels of EPA and DHA,” senior author Alan Kristal, DrPH reported. “However, the new finding was that obesity did not increase these risk factors among study participants with high blood levels of omega-3 fats.”

“Because Yup’ik Eskimos have a traditional diet that includes large amounts of fatty fish and have a prevalence of overweight or obesity that is similar to that of the general U.S. population, this offered a unique opportunity to study whether omega-3 fats change the association between obesity and chronic disease risk,” stated Dr Makhoul, who is a postdoctoral researcher in the Cancer Prevention Program of the Public Health Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Center. “Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons. It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup’ik Eskimos from some of the harmful effects of obesity.”

Although the prevalence of being overweight among the study population is similar to that of most Americans, their rate of diabetes is only half as high. “While genetic, lifestyle and dietary factors may account for this difference, it is reasonable to ask, based on our findings, whether the lower prevalence of diabetes in this population might be attributed, at least in part, to their high consumption of omega-3-rich fish,” Dr Makhoul speculated.

The researchers recommend that a clinical trial be conducted to help confirm whether increased omega-3 fatty acids reduce obesity’s effect on triglycerides and inflammation. “If the results of such a trial were positive, it would strongly suggest that omega-3 fats could help prevent obesity-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes,” Dr Makhoul concluded.

If you eat salmon make sure it is wild caught salmon. This is natural salmon which has lived in the ocean and eaten the normal salmon’s diet which contributes to the high omega-3 fats.  Unfortunately what you’ll usually find in the grocery store and at most restaurants is farm raised salmon. These fish have been raised in shallow ponds and fed corn, soy, and occasionally slaughter house leftovers.  This diet results in much lower levels of omega-3 fats and far too high levels of the inflammatory omega-6 fats.  If you look at the label it will say Atlantic Salmon or farm raised. You may also notice that the ingredients are: Salmon & pink food coloring! Yes, farm raised salmon is white, they then dye it the pink/orange salmon color.

The easiest way to increase your omeag-3 intake is through supplements.  Caution is needed here too. Many manufactures will used the oil from large, older, warm water fish.  These will accumulate much more mercury and PCB than smaller, younger, cold water fish.  Also make sure they are manufactured to pharmaceutical GMP standards. My Omega-3 supplement uses exclusively small young fish and then the oil goes through a double molecular distillation process to insure its purity and it is free from any contaminants.