The weight loss benefits associated with omega-3 have been well-documented in the past, but can it actually deter our cravings for junk food?
Researchers from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease examined 185 research papers dealing with fish oil's effect on weight loss and neurogenesis, the process that generates nerve cell growth.
"We wanted to investigate the literature on this topic to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s might aid weight loss by stimulating particular brain processes," said lead investigator Dr. Lucy Pickavance.
Dr. Pickavance and her colleagues used the research papers' data to establish that diets high in fat prevent the emission of hormones responsible for neuron growth in the brain. This hindrance on healthy brain stimulation is caused by the proliferation of inflammatory molecules and triglycerides, which have also been known to cause cardiovascular risk.
"Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume. Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing," Dr. Pickavance explained.
"These changes can be seen in the brain's structure, including its ability to generate new nerve cells, potentially linking obesity to neurodegenerative diseases. Research, however, has suggested that omega-3 fish oils can reverse or even prevent these effects."
Studies conducted on animal subjects suggest omega-3 fatty acids can not only halt the production of inflammatory molecules and triglycerides, but also restore nerve growth damage. While fish oil inhibits the progression of inflammatory molecules, it also promotes molecules that stimulate nerve growth.
"Fish oils don't appear to have a direct impact on weight loss, but they may take the brakes off the detrimental effects of some of the processes triggered in the brain by high-fat diets. They seem to mimic the effects of calorie restrictive diets and including more oily fish or fish oil supplements in our diets could certainly be a positive step forward for those wanting to improve their general health," added Dr. Pickavance.
This study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.