Current recommendations for counteracting obesity advocate the consumption of a healthy diet and participation in regular physical activity, but many individuals have difficulty complying with these recommendations. Studies in rodents and humans have indicated that long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC n-3 PUFA) potentially elicit a number of effects which might be useful for reducing obesity, including suppression of appetite, improvements in circulation which might facilitate nutrient delivery to skeletal muscle and changes in gene expression which shift metabolism toward increased accretion of lean tissue, enhanced fat oxidation and energy expenditure and reduced fat deposition. While LC n-3 PUFA supplementation has been shown to reduce obesity in rodents, evidence in humans is limited. Epidemiological associations between LC n-3 PUFA intakes and obesity are inconclusive but small cross-sectional studies have demonstrated inverse relationships between markers of LC n-3 PUFA status and markers of obesity. Human intervention trials indicate potential benefits of LC n-3 PUFA supplementation, especially when combined with energy-restricted diets or exercise, but more well-controlled and long-term trials are needed to confirm these effects and identify mechanisms of action.
Keywords: weight loss; body fat; gene expression; lean tissue anabolism; satiety.