Japanese researchers found fish oil can convert fat-storing cells into fat-burning cells. The findings proved useful in reducing and maintaining weight during middle age.
Fish oil can activate digestive tract receptors, prompting fat-storing cells to digest fat and trigger the sympathetic nervous system.
The study outlined three types of fat cells. The first, called "white" cells, keep fat for energy supply maintenance. The so-called "brown" cells digest fat so the body can maintain a constant temperature. Babies have an abundant supply of brown cells. The numbers decrease with age, which could explain the increased difficulty in losing weight towards adulthood.
The third type was found only recently in both mice and humans. Called "beige" cells, they function like brown cells and also reduce in number as a person hits middle age. Beige cells metabolize fat to keep it from accumulating. The Japanese research team studied if eating certain types of foods can increase the number of beige cells.
"We tested whether fish oil and an increase in beige cells could be related," said senior study author Teruo Kawada, who highlighted past research that proved fish oil's many health benefits, one of which is keeping fat from accumulating in the body.
In a lab test, mice that were fed fish oil-infused fatty foods gained 5 to 10 percent less weight as well as 15 to 25 percent less fat compared to a mice group fed with just fatty foods without the fish oil.
The fish oil also activated the sympathetic nervous system that led to the formation of beige cells from white fat cells. The results of the study proved that some fat-storing cells have the ability to acquire fat-metabolizing capabilities. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports on Dec. 17.
"People have long said that food from Japan and the Mediterranean contribute to longevity, but why these cuisines are beneficial was up for debate. Now we have better insight into why that may be," added Kawada.
The addition of fish oil to a healthy diet could help convert some of the body's fat-storing cells into fat-burning ones. Fish oil could be a strong player in the battle against the rising obesity epidemic.