By Chad Kerksick, PhD ProSource
Using Fish Oils to Support Your Health, Lifestyle and Body Composition Goals
Here's something we say a lot in this venue, but really, we can't say it often enough. A superior physique springs from superior overall health. Do you want to lose fat, gain muscle, and manifest peak performance? Then establish a firm foundation of good health first. That means a healthy immune system, peak cardiovascular function, efficient digestion, and top-notch organ function.
All of which brings us to the subject of fish oils. No, they aren't as sexy as that new (and completely unvalidated) Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator (SARM) product from Fly-By-Night, Inc that's getting all the buzz lately. But fish oil and fish oil supplements are a key component in maintaining a bodily environment conducive to physique enhancement. Let's start with cardiovascular function.
Fish Oils and Cardiovascular Function
While focusing on your heart and cardiovascular system is something many young individuals may not consider a high priority, it should be, particularly if you've already lost a grandparent or parent or they are currently battling these diseases. Makes sense considering that heart disease has been at or near the top of the list of things that people die from for decades now. A review paper published in 2006 summarized a number of published research articles and reported that consuming fish or fish oil which contain the omega-3 fatty acids and important precursors, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may support cardiovascular health.
This effect was found to be greater as the daily dose was increased from one gram to over three grams of fish oils each day . It is also interesting to note that the American Heart Association also currently recommends that everyone eat oily fish two times each week. Furthermore, a more recent review article in 2009 reinforces these conclusions and indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may positively impact blood clotting or the "stickiness" of your blood as well as high cholesterol and triglyceride levels . At the end of the day, a minimum dose of one combined gram of EPA and DHA is commonly advised. However, higher doses may be needed as a recent 2011 study showed that over an eight week period triglyceride levels were lowered by 27% when a 3.4 gram dose of EPA and DHA was provided while a lower dose (0.85 grams) did not change triglyceride values to any extent greater than a placebo .
Fish Oils and Inflammation
In addition to cardiovascular function, management of inflammation is important for health, but also has key implications for recovery from stressful exercise. The typical diet in the Western world has a great deal of omega-6 fatty acids, which are known to promote inflammation, and a deficit of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked decreases in inflammation. For these reasons, a number of recommendations suggest reduction in the intake of foods containing omega-6 fatty acids (animal fat, plants oils, cereals, etc.) and increases in the intake of omega-3 fatty acids (cold water fish, such as salmon, trout and herring). In this respect it is acknowledged that EPA and DHA may prevent the development of inflammation and can also mitigate the further development of current inflammatory responses .
In fact, a recent review article in 2010 outlined a number of studies which illustrated the positive impact increasing dietary intake of EPA and DHA can have on various states of inflammation . Mixed reviews currently exist regarding any positive impact of short-term supplementation of fish oils in humans. Clear evidence appears to exist in cell culture, cross-sectional populations studies and animal studies [5-9], but a number of experimental studies in humans have been inconclusive. It has, however, been suggested that the ideal dosing and length of studies may not have been utilized in these reports . In fact, when a stress-inducing event occurs, two studies have suggested that fish oil supplementation may be helpful to mitigate or minimize the response which results [10, 11].
Considering the known positive effects on your health and the potential for fish oils to provide needed support for inflammation, regular supplementation may still be recommended for a number of people.
Fish Oils and Diet Support
The final area to discuss regarding fish oils relates to its role in diet support, body composition and fat burning. One of the initial studies to investigate this area had six volunteers consume a control diet for three weeks or the same diet where six grams per day of visible fat was replaced with fish oils. While dietary intake did not differ, when fish oils replaced other fats in the diet, body mass was decreased and fat oxidation was increased, suggesting that fish oils may be helpful in people interested in losing weight and burning fat . In addition, when overweight women had omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo added to their diet while following a very low calorie diet, the addition of the omega-3 fatty acids resulted in significantly more weight loss and also promoted greater evidence of fat oxidation when a placebo was added . Finally, when fish oils were added to the daily diet of overweight research volunteers who exercised three days per week for twelve weeks, fish oil supplementation significantly reduced triglycerides and increased HDL cholesterol while improving vascular health and function. In addition, adding fish oils to the exercise program also resulted in significant reductions in body fat of the individuals . Results from these studies provide evidence that fish oils can provide valuable help and support to any person following a diet which restricts calories with or without exercise.
Supplementation with fish oils is accompanied by an abundance of data to support their use at supporting peak health, while studies in exercising individuals suggest that individuals may be the benefactors of improved inflammation when starting an exercise program. Adding fish oils to dieting individuals can help with diet support, body composition and aid in burning fat. While upregulating your fish oil intake with whole food sources is always indicated, many athletes find it difficult to greatly increase their daily intake of coldwater fish. In these cases, fish oil supplementation is indicated, as long as the supplement in question contains a high-quality source of omega-3 fish oil. ProSource's Omega-1250 contains 750 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (450 mg of EPA and 300 mg of DHA) per softgel, derived from high-quality coldwater fish oil sources. ProSource's Omega Fusion product contains 360 mg of EPA and 360 mg of DHA in a tasty liquid format.
Considering the known positive health benefits and their ability to promote weight loss and body composition improvements, adding fish oils to your daily regimen should be a consideration. Research in this area is relatively new and as more and more studies are completed, the positive benefits of increasing fish oils in your diet will become more and more clear.
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