What’s the single most amazing fat? Yep, that’s right, the one in the title: EPA—a.k.a. eicosapentaenoic acid. In mice that were fed a high-fat, high-sucrose diet or high-fat diet for four to 20 weeks, scientists checked out the effects of giving them some added EPA. Good things happened.
EPA treatment strongly suppressed bodyweight gain and obesity-related hyperglycemia and insulin hyperinsulinemia in the fat-and-sucrose-fed mice. So it’s the first study to show an anti-obesity effect of EPA in fat-and-sucrose-induced obesity.1 Sounds basically like a doughnut diet. So if you eat a doughnut, take fish oil.
Another study found that giving EPA significantly inhibits DNA oxidative damage and may contribute to the prevention of neural damage and memory impairment.2 Wow, the stuff gets even better. It can also help skeletal muscle. We know, for instance, that respiratory muscle weakness is common in critically ill patients, impairing their ability to breathe, prolonging the need for ventilator support and increasing the likelihood of respiratory failure when that support is removed. Infections and endotoxemia—the presence of toxins in the blood—reduce respiratory muscle strength. EPA lessens the loss in diaphragm strength induced by bacterial endotoxin treatment in rats.3 Scientists believe that it’s possible to reduce infection-induced skeletal muscle weakness in critically ill patients by administration of EPA.4
And get this: Preliminary human evidence shows that EPA may counteract bone loss associated with space flight.5
EPA is a 20-carbon long-chain fatty acid. Its effects are nothing less than amazing. It has potential to have an anti-obesity effect—especially if you eat lots of doughnuts—and may alleviate DNA damage, improve memory and help muscle function under conditions of infection. Its potent anti-inflammatory effects make omega-3-fat-containing foods like salmon true superfoods.
Additionally, the combination of EPA and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, supplementation on resting and exercise-induced inflammation and oxidative stress was studied in exercise-trained men.6 Fourteen men supplemented with that combo and a placebo for six weeks. They discovered that taking the potent duo of omega-3 fats resulted in a significant increase in blood EPA and DHA. Resting amounts of selected markers of inflammation were lower with the combination compared to the placebo.
Over the long haul, taking these anti-inflammatory fats not only will contribute to better health but may even improve body composition. Not many foods or supplements can claim that. So the omega-3s should be at the top of your supplement totem pole.
Editor’s note: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., is the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (www.TheISSN.org); also check out his site www.TheWeekend
1 Sato, A., et al. (2010). Anti-obesity effect of eicosapentaenoic acid in high-fat/high-sucrose diet-induced obesity: Importance of hepatic lipogenesis. Diabetes. epub.
2 Okabe, N., et al. (2010). Eicosapentaenoic acid prevents memory impairment after ischemia by inhibiting inflammatory response and oxidative damage. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. epub.
3 Calder, P.C. (2010). A novel effect of eicosapentaenoic acid: Improved diaphragm strength in endotoxemia. Crit Care.14(2):143.
4 Supinski, G.S., et al. (2010). Eicosapentaenoic acid preserves diaphragm force generation following endotoxin administration. Crit Care. 14(2):R35.
5 Zwart, S.R., et al. (2010). Capacity of omega-3 fatty acids or eicosapentaenoic acid to counteract weightlessness-induced bone loss by inhibiting NF-kappaB activation: From cells to bed rest to astronauts. J Bone Miner Res. 25(5):1049-57.
6 Bloomer, R.J., et al. (2009). Effect of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid on resting and exercise-induced inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers: a randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. Lipids Health Dis. 8:36.