Being that it is the start of fat loss season for endurance athletes I found a recent study in the JISSN rather interesting. Researchers wanted to test the effects of fish oil supplementation on resting metabolic rate (how many calories we burn at rest), body composition, and cortisol (a stress hormone). They used two groups, one given safflower oil and the other fish oil, and took measurements both before and after the 6 week study. At the end of the 6 weeks they found that the fish oil group significantly increased lean mass and decreased fat mass, and had a reduction in cortisol levels (better stress response equals quicker recovery). Those are amazing results from supplementing with fat! Full study is here.
Along with this weight loss study there are several studies showing that fish oils can help protect against cardiovascular disease and reduce asthma primarily due to its anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Ever have a little bit of tendinitis or sore muscles? Yep, that is inflammation as well. We are constantly fighting inflammation in our body and fish oil is our domestique in this battle. The omega-3 fats in fish oil help us balance out our typically high omega-6 fat intake that is typical in modern, highly processed foods and can actually increase inflammation. Ideally we should have a 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio but with our reliance on processed seed oils we usually come far from that ratio. For example, corn oil contains roughly a 45:1 omega-6:omega-3 ratio. It’s hard to balance that out through diet alone and that is where good quality fish oil can come in to help. Of course reducing our omega-6 processed seed oils can be just as, if not more, beneficial in reducing inflammation in the body (i.e. stop eating processed “food”).
There are a lot of good sources for high quality fish oil but my recommendations would be for Carlson Salmon Oil, or Nordic Naturals. Of course I am not a nutritionist nor do I play one on TV. I recommend talking to a licensed nutritionist before starting any supplements program.
For a more thorough discussion of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, and what PUFA is check out the Whole Health Source blog for a more thorough explanation.