May - Jun 2013

Fight Fat with Omega 3s

By Robyn Hensley, MS RD


The health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are impressive: cancer prevention, heart disease prevention, immune function, brain health, and more.  But did you know that omega 3 fatty acids can help fight the disease of obesity? Omega 3s, along with protein, fiber and calcium, are known as “anti-obesity” foods because they actually help prevent obesity and weight re-gain after bariatric surgical procedures.


Omega 3 fatty acids fight obesity a few different ways: they change the way we metabolize fat. They affect stress hormones. And they can even decrease appetite. Omega 3s alter fat metabolism by shrinking fat cell size and numbers. With smaller fat cells and less of them, we don’t accumulate as much stored fat, which helps to prevent obesity and weigh re-gain. The second way omega 3s can help fight obesity is by decreasing the stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that our bodies produce when we are stressed- and too much of it causes us to accumulate fat, especially around the stomach. When you increase the amount of omega 3s in the diet, you can decrease levels of cortisol, and you are less likely to store the unwanted fat. The third way omega 3 fatty acids help us lose and keep weight off is by the effect they have on appetite. Omegas 3s interfere with the production of endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are fat-promoting substances that are responsible for increasing appetite and food cravings. If you notice that you are craving more foods or finding it harder to control your appetite, adding omega 3s to your daily routine may help.


Getting enough omega 3 in your diet means you should consume good food sources and possibly a supplement. The best food sources include fish, especially fattier fish like wild-caught salmon, halibut, sardines, trout, catfish and tuna. They can also be found in foods enriched with omega 3s, like enriched butter and eggs. Flax seed, canola oil, and walnuts also contain healthy omega 3s.


If you don’t eat a lot of fish, you may want to include fish oil supplements to ensure that you are getting enough. Look for supplements that contain about 1000 mg of fish oil concentrate with at least 300 mg of EPA and DHA (the most “active” kinds of omega 3s). Remember to avoid supplements that have an enteric coating and won’t be absorbed well.


Once you adopt a routine of getting your daily recommended protein, vitamins, and water, try including omega 3 fatty acids. It is one more way to stay healthy, lose weight, and keep the weight off after bariatric surgery.


If you have any of the following conditions, fish oil supplements may be contraindicated:

  • Blood clotting disorder
  • Use of medications that change clotting time, such as Coumadin
  • Allergy to seafood (there are vegetarian sources of omega 3s)
  • History of ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation


Consult with your physician before initiating their use.



Cynthia Buffington. "Anti-obesity Foods: Omega 3 Fatty Acids." Silhouette (May-June 2007)