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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Fish oil protects the obese

29th March 2011

Researchers have drawn some conclusions about the effects of omega-3 oils by studying Yupik Eskimos in Alaska, who consume 20 times more omega-3 fats than other US residents.


Lead author Zeina Makhoul, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said her research team decided to study Yupik Eskimos due to the fact that, while the tribe had a prevalence of overweight or obesity that was similar to that of the general US population, they also had a traditional diet that included very large amounts of fatty fish.

She said she and her research team found that obese people whose blood levels of omega-3 were high did not differ from people whose weight was more modest, in terms of triglyceride and C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations.

For the study, the researchers analysed data from 330 people who lived in southern Alaska.

Participants provided blood samples and health information, and doctors assessed people's diets by asking them what they had eaten in the past 24 hours.

In total, 70% of the Yupik population was either overweight or obese.

The researchers were particularly interested in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two types of omega-3 found in oily fish, as well as in fish oil supplements.

Study subjects whose blood levels of EPA and DHA were low showed a higher heart disease risk, elevated levels of triglycerides, and elevated levels of C-reactive protein.

Scientists use C-reactive protein to measure bodily inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease.

Overall, the population of Yupik Eskimos had a 3.3% prevalence of type 2 diabetes, much lower than the world average.

Makhoul said that high intake of  seafood rich in omega-3 oils seemed to protect Yupik Eskimos from some of the harmful effects of obesity.


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