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May 2013

Omega-3 Benefits Studied in Overweight Young Adults

A study found a lack of effect of short-term omega-3 supplementation on metabolic syndrome or markers of inflammation in relatively overweight but healthy young adults.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that occur together and may increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is often characterized by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and excess body fat around the waist.

Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil and certain plant and nut oils. Fish oil contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), while some nuts (such as English walnuts) and vegetable oils (such as canola, soybean, flaxseed, linseed, and olive oils) contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). There is evidence from multiple studies that suggests that DHA and EPA intake in the form of dietary fish or fish oil supplements lowers triglycerides; reduces the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease; slows the buildup of arterial hardening, and lowers and lowers blood pressure slightly.

In the current study, researchers set out to determine whether these potential benefits of omega-3 may apply to a population of overweight young adults. They recruited people between the ages of 18-30 with body mass indices (BMIs) of 23 or greater. (Generally, a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.) The participants randomly received either 1.7 grams of omega-3 or safflower oil placebo daily for four weeks. Researchers collected blood samples and looked at measures such as blood pressure, blood sugar, and levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker.

The results showed that DHA and EPA concentrations increased in the omega-3 group over the course of the study. However, there was a lack of effect of omega-3 on measures of blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, cholesterol, and inflammation.

The researchers concluded that the lack of effect of omega-3 may be due to the short period of supplementation. Further study is needed before firm conclusions may be made on the possible benefits of fish oil in relatively overweight young adults.

Many integrative therapies have been evaluated for their potential benefits on weight loss and other related concerns in overweight and obese people. 5-HTP, chitosan, DHEA, Korean pine, mango seed fiber, and whey protein are all backed by good scientific evidence for their effects in reducing appetite and promoting weight loss.

For more information about omega-3, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Root M, Collier SR, Zwetsloot KA, et al. A randomized trial of fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on arterial health, inflammation, and metabolic syndrome in a young healthy population. Nutr J. 2013 Apr 8;12(1):40. [Epub ahead of print] 

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