Ben Greenfield tweeted out a link to the the press release for this study, where they state:
Researchers have found that fish oil transforms fat-storage cells into fat-burning cells, which may reduce weight gain in middle age.
Since I’m currently stuck in the middle of the storm of the century here in Northern Virginia (why did I ever leave California), I figure I have the time to hunker down and read through the actual paper itself.
Press releases are notorious for misrepresenting what is actually stated in the paper. Luckily this paper is free!
This paper is actually hot off the presses and was published only a few weeks ago in Nature this past December 2015:
You can see that I made an honest effort to read through the paper… I really did, but after I got to page 3 my brain kind of shut off.
This is basically a mouse study where they measured blood markers, metabolic activity, gene expression, mitochondrial activity, tissue analysis, urine tests, etc…
The combination of the single spaced text, all the acronyms, and the dry writing ultimately killed my interest.
- White fat is the storage form of fat and is what we traditionally think of as fat. If our body has too much energy, it will be stored as white fat. The scientific name is white adipose tissue (WAT).
- Brown fat is a form of fat that burns energy to be released as heat, thermogenesis. When our body is cold, brown fat will tell our body to generate more heat by burning fat. The scientific name is brown adipose tissue (BAT).
- Recently, a type of fat called ‘beige fat’ has been found within white fat, and beige fat can act like brown fat and tell the body to generate more heat by burning fat.
- Both brown fat and beige fat are activated by a gene, mitochondrial uncoupling protein (UCP1), hence the title.
So, what did they find?
The authors concluded that:
In this study, we investigated the effect of fish oil intake on energy metabolism. Fish oil intake reduced body weight gain and fat accumulation, while increasing oxygen consumption and rectal temperature, as compared to control diet-fed mice. Furthermore, fish oil intake induced UCP1 expression in both of BAT and WAT, and activated the SNS. Combined, our data indicate that fish oil intake enhances energy utilization by inducing UCP1 in both BAT and WAT, and could thereby prevent obesity and related metabolic disorders.
The mice that compared to the control group, the mice that received fish oil demonstrated:
- Decreased body fat accumulation
- Increased metabolism
- Increased UCP1 expression in brown fat and beige fat
- Reduced fasting glucose, insulin, and triglycerides
- Reduced leptin
- Elevated adiponectin
- Increased expression of UCP1 gene in BAT and WAT
I realize I need to learn more about leptin and adiponectin. Here’s a nice summary on leptin from the website BreakingMuscle.com which is most definitely a reputable website…
What type and how much fish oil was given?
This was my biggest question going into this paper. As you know now, with all of the recent papers I’ve been reading, my favorite section is in in the Materials and Methods where they described what was actually used. What brand, how much, how often, etc… IF we’re to extrapolate any sort of information from research studies into practical application, this information is important.
Needless to say, I was unsatisfied with this section of the paper. This is what they said:
DHA-enriched fish oil (DHA 25%, EPA 8%) was a gift from NOF Corporation (Tokyo, Japan) and EPA-enriched fish oil (EPA 28%, DHA 12%) was a gift from Nippon Suisan Kaisya, Ltd., (Tokyo, Japan).
The composition of diet, expressed as the percent of total calories, was 45% fat, 14% protein, and 41% carbohydrate with a caloric value of 4.74 kcal/g (Supplemental table 4). The concentration of fish oil on a diet with low-dose or high-dose was 1.2% and 2.4%, respectively.
I’m not entirely sure what brand of fish oil they used. I explored the NOF site and Nippon Suisan Kaisya site and couldn’t find anything.
I also can’t tell how much they gave.
Was the 1.2% and 2.4% the percentage of total calories?
If so, in a 2000 calorie diet, 2.4% would only be around 48 calories, which is about 1 tsp of fish oil.
That seems low to me. I wish this part of the paper was fleshed out more.
Brown fat and beige fat are becoming hot topics in obesity research and the biohacker community. People are exploring all sorts of ways to maximize the expression of these types of fat which is the whole reasoning behind ‘cold thermogenesis’ and devices like this and this. Now it looks like fish oil can be another tool to use.
I already regularly take fish oil for its other benefits and this looks to be yet one more reason to continue taking it.
The brand the BJJ Cavewife and I are currently using is:
This is the best tasting fish oil I’ve had and the only one the notoriously picky BJJ Cavewife will take. Also, EXOS which is under Thorne Research is a brand that I trust.