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Fish Oil May Help Melt Away Junk Food Cravings

Update Date: May 14, 2013 01:36 PM EDT
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Feel like having a burger? Pop a fish oil pill and feel your cravings melt away.

After examining data from 185 research papers looking at fish oil's effect on weight loss and neurogenesis, researchers found that fish oil could actually curb the effects that junk food can have on the brain.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease reviewed research from around to the world to find out whether omega-3s really can help aid in weight loss.

"We wanted to investigate the literature on this topic to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s might aid weight loss by stimulating particular brain processes, " lead researcher Dr. Lucy Pickavance said in a news release.

"Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume. Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing," she said.

Over the past decade, studies have shown that high-fat diets could disrupt neurogenesis, the generation of new neurons in the brain.  However, diets rich in omega-3s could help prevent these negative effects by stimulating the part of the brain that control feeding, learning and memory.

While fish oils do not have a direct impact on neurogenesis in these areas of the brain, the latest research reveals they play a significant role in minimizing the control junk food has on the brain.

Past studies have shown that high fat diets can prevent hormones that normally protect neurons and stimulate their growth from passing into the brain by increasing the circulation of inflammatory molecules and a type of fat called triglycerides. On a high fat diet, molecules that stimulate nerve growth are also reduced.  However, researchers found in studies on animals that omega-3 s restore normal function by interfering with the production of these inflammatory molecules, suppressing triglycerides and returning these nerve growth factors to normal.

"Fish oils don't appear to have a direct impact on weight loss, but they may take the brakes off the detrimental effects of some of the processes triggered in the brain by high-fat diets. They seem to mimic the effects of calorie restrictive diets and including more oily fish or fish oil supplements in our diets could certainly be a positive step forward for those wanting to improve their general health," Pickavance concluded.

The latest findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition

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