Background: Regular exercise and consuming long-chain n-3 fatty acids (FAs) from fish or fish oil can independently improve cardiovascular and metabolic health, but combining these lifestyle modifications may be more effective than either treatment alone.
Objective: We examined the individual and combined effects of n-3 FA supplements and regular exercise on body composition and cardiovascular health.
Design: Overweight volunteers [body mass index (BMI; in kg/m(2)): >25] with high blood pressure, cholesterol, or triacylglycerols were randomly assigned to one of the following interventions: fish oil (FO), FO and exercise (FOX), sunflower oil (SO; control), or SO and exercise (SOX). Subjects consumed 6 g tuna FO/d ( approximately 1.9 g n-3 FA) or 6 g SO/d. The exercise groups walked 3 d/wk for 45 min at 75% age-predicted maximal heart rate. Plasma lipids, blood pressure, and arterial function were assessed at 0, 6, and 12 wk. Body composition was assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry at 0 and 12 wk only.
Results: FO supplementation lowered triacylglycerols, increased HDL cholesterol, and improved endothelium-dependent arterial vasodilation (P<0.05). Exercise improved arterial compliance (P<0.05). Both fish oil and exercise independently reduced body fat (P<0.05).
Conclusions: FO supplements and regular exercise both reduce body fat and improve cardiovascular and metabolic health. Increasing intake of n-3 FAs could be a useful adjunct to exercise programs aimed at improving body composition and decreasing cardiovascular disease risk.