Fat-reducing benefits of fish oil, exercise cancel

provided by University of Missouri, Columbia

ndependently, fish oil supplements and exercise reduce the amount of fat in the bloodstream, which ultimately improve cardiovascular health. So, one would expect to get a double benefit when combining the two treatments. However, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found in a recent study that that is simply not so.

Their study results, published in this month's issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology, show that not only does the beneficial effect not double, neither exercise nor fish oil has any effect on fat levels when coupled in treatment.

Doctors monitor high triglyceride - or fat levels because they lead to high cholesterol, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Doctors commonly treat this condition in their patients with exercise and fish oil supplements.

"With exercise, you get an effect. With fish oil, you get an effect. But together you get no effect. The treatments counteract each other. It wasn't what we were expecting to see," said Tom Thomas, professor of exercise physiology at MU. "The message here is that sometimes two is not better than one."

Thomas emphasized that he doesn't encourage anyone to make rash decisions about stopping exercise or fish oil treatments based on his study, because each treatment improves health in many ways other than lowering fat. "They still help with other things - exercise also improves muscle strength and circulation, and fish oil also helps reduce clotting and prevent irregular heartbeats. We don't want people to miss out on these benefits until we find out more."

He said the next step is to study why this negative effect happens. Once they identify the cause, which he suspects is enzyme-related, his team can begin to overcome the problem it has uncovered. Currently, he and his team also are studying the long-term effects of combining fat ingestion and exercise using pigs as the subjects.

Exercise physiology research like this study are important in the battle to get Americans healthier because it has proven difficult to get them to change their diets. "We've tried for years to get Americans to lower their fat intake, but the national average has only changed from about 35 to 32 percent - not enough to do much good," Thomas said. "Now we're looking into how exercise can help when you eat that much fat and if it matters which kind of fat you're eating."