Fish oil=Nature’s fat burner

If your thinking the title is too good to be true, think again. A number of studies prove fish oil is responsible for fat loss for a variety of reasons.

In 2006, The Age released an article on fish oil and weight loss, however, it’s time to revitalize this study with backed evidence.

In short, when fish oil(omega 3) enters the body, the essential fat acts as traffic lights in your body by directing carbohydrates towards energy storage rather than fat storage. This means the fat storing consequences from simple carbohydrates are alleviated when you consume the adequate amount of fish oil.

This also screams out accelerating results in fat burning for bodybuilders during exercise since any carbohydrates digested are adequately used for exercise.

In a nutshell, consume 6-9grams of fish oil combined with 30 mins of exercise a day to improve insulin sensitivity and you will inevitably lose fat or maintain your weight depending on how much and what food you consume.

Despite the fact it has a number of important health benefits, the idea that fish oil is some kind of magic bullet for weight loss may be a myth. I’d like to say you can just pop a few fish oil capsules and expect the fat to melt away. But this is unrealistic without making changes to your diet and exercise program first. However there are studies suggesting fish oil is a magical fat burning bullet.

Now for the evidence on how fish oil actually works.

Proof of fat loss with exercise

A number of studies from T-NATION and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1)establish the link between fish oil and fat loss.

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that daily doses of oil containing omega-3 fatty acids, combined with moderate exercise like walking for 45 minutes, can result in significant weight loss.

But taking the oil without exercise, or exercising without taking the oil, does not result in any weight loss, according to researchers from the University of South Australia.

The researchers examined the effects of effects of fish oil and exercise, alone and together, on fat mass, lean mass, and cardiovascular health in 75 overweight adults (age range 25-65).

They were divided into four groups — a group taking fish oil and exercise, another taking just fish oil, a third group taking sunflower oil without exercise and a fourth being asked to combine sunflower oil and exercise.

The group using fish oil took 6 grams of fish oil per day. The supplement provided 260 milligrams of DHA and 60 milligrams of EPA in each 1-gram capsule.

Body composition was assessed at the start and end of the study with the use of dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), a method to measure body fat.

The clear winners in the study were those in the group who were given fish oil and who walked or ran for 45 minutes three times a week.

Exercising subjects who used fish oil lost around 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of fat. The group that took the sunflower oil (which does not contain omega-3 fatty acids) but who exercised lost a very small amount of weight. The two groups that did no exercise (including those on fish oil) also lost no weight.

In light of this study, according to T-NATION, there is unpublished and unreleased information in regards to heart rate.

The fish oil group experienced a significant reduction in resting heart rate compared to the others not receiving fish oil.

Because their exercise goals were heart rate oriented (75% max heart rate), the fish oil group had to work harder to achieve their exercise goal. This is potentially one of the reasons that the fish oil group lost more weight.

Cardiovascular research indicates that increased consumption of EPA/DHA(fish oil) can change the electro-chemistry of your heart. This is why fish oil can help prevent sudden death from heart attacks. This is also probably the reason why fish oil can modulate resting heart rate.

Proof of fat loss with no exercise!!!!

Now for those of you who absolutely hate exercise with a passion…there is still hope.

According to The International Journal of Obesity(2),324 overweight and obese men and women were put on a reduced calorie diet. These people then received either nothing, fatty fish, lean fish, or fish oil capsules.

Participants were consuming 50% of their calories from carbohydrates and only 20% of their calories from protein. They also weren’t exercising. Think of this as a setup for diet failure!

Despite the odds, the men lost an average of 14 pounds, and the men that ate fish or took fish oil lost an extra 2 pounds. There was an added weight loss advantage even in the group of men that ate cod (non-fatty fish).

The International Journal of Obesity(3)established one of the first studies involving fish oil and fat loss back in 1997.

The participants were put on a diet containing 50% calories from carbohydrates. Instead of supplementing with fish oil the whole time, 12 weeks into the study some of the participants were asked to replace 6 grams of fat in their diet with 6 grams of fish oil for the remaining three weeks.

The people who replaced fats in their diet with fish oil lost 2 pounds over three weeks while the non-fish oil group lost 0.7 pounds. That may not seem like a lot at first but you need to consider that these people didn’t do anything different except for replacing fat in their diet with fish oil, they didn’t exercise and they were on a high carbohydrate diet.

It seems that according to these studies, fish oil has been previously shown to increase fat utilization during exercise and increase fat loss independent of exercise.

How fish oil works

There are many ways to scientifically explain how fish oil and fat loss works, such as, suppressing appetites, burning fat by turning on lipolytic genes and reducing stored fat by turning off lipogenic genes. However the most prominent explanation is the decrease in cortisol levels in the body and increase in muscle building benefits.

When it comes to fat loss, metabolism is a priority and the higher your metabolism is, the lower your cortisol is.

Cortisol is the opposite hormone to testosterone. Cortisol levels increase when you lack sleep, decrease water consumption and have high stress levels. As a result, fat accumulation is evident.

A recent study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (4) showed healthy adults taking fish oil for six weeks significantly increased lean mass and body fat

Interestingly, subjects had a decrease in cortisol levels after taking fish oil. Researchers suggested that because cortisol has a protein degrading effect and is thought to result in increases in fat mass, the lower cortisol levels were responsible for the participants’ weight loss and muscle development.  More good news since higher cortisol levels are associated with higher mortality rates, meaning that fish oil supplementation has significant implications for both body composition and overall health and well being.

In a nutshell, by combining this study with fish oil’s positive effects of cell and insulin sensitivity, there is no fail to fish oil supplementation and adequate fish consumption.

Final advice

Although there are conflicting studies suggesting whether fish oil + exercise result in fat loss or not, the take home message is…..CONSUME FISH OIL DAILY!!!!! for long term health benefits from EPA/DHA and fat loss goals. Consuming fish oil should be an essential requirement as the western diet consistently fails in omega 3 intake.

There’s plenty of research demonstrating the effect of fish oil on fat loss in rats and mice, however, research showing a direct effect on body fat in humans is limited in both size and quality.

The best way to utilize fish oil is with exercise. The idea that fish oil is a tablet bullet that shoots away fat seems too good to be true. But these studies suggest otherwise.


1.Hill AM, Buckley JD, Murphy KJ, Howe PRC. Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. 2007, pp 1267-1274.

2. Thorsdottir I, Tomasson H, Gunnarsdottir I, Gisladottir E, Kiely M, Parra MD, et al. Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content. Int J Obes 2007.

3. Couet C, Delarue J, Ritz P, Antoine J, Lamisse F. Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults. International journal of obesity 1997; 21: 637-643.

4. Noreen, E., Sass, M., Crowe, M., Pabon, V., Branauer, J., Averill, L. Effects of Supplemental Fish Oil on Resting Metabolic Rate, Body Composition, and Salivary Cortisol in Healthy Adults. 2010. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 7(31).