Genes for Jeans

I recently received this comment from a reader of Get Serious:

“I recommended your book to a friend and a potential client of mine and his upping the omega-3 intake to your recommended levels has had significant effects in reducing his body fat levels. He is ecstatic and called on me to thank him for the recommendation. Does upping the omega-3 intake have such a profound effect on reducing body fat levels?”

And the answer is a resounding “YES!”

Bodybuilders have utilized this pre-contest tweak for years, cognizant of the lipolytic (fat-burning) effects of high-dose omega-3 fatty acids. In a previous post, I discussed the benefits of “good fats,” particularly those of the omega-3 and omega-9 subtypes, in the context of their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And while their biochemical effects are quantifiable via laboratory testing, why not just take a look at your waistline?

You see, omega-3 fatty acids promote fat breakdown AND suppress fat synthesis, a sort of one-two punch. And these changes occur at the genetic level (i.e, it is not a receptor-mediated phenomenon). Mak-Soon Lee, et al. concluded the following: 

“In comparison with the control, intracellular lipid accumulation was significantly decreased by 24% at 24 h following the addition of EPA (P < 0.05). Under the same experimental conditions, there was an increase of glycerol and free fatty acids (FFAs). The mRNA level of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I-a, a component of the fatty-acid shuttle system involved in the mitochondrial oxidation of long-chain fatty acids, was also significantly elevated by EPA (P < 0.05). However, the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ and acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), which are involved in adipogenesis, was significantly down-regulated by EPA (P < 0.05).”

In English? As you may recall from the pages of Get Serious, health and longevity are less dictated by one’s genetic makeup and more so by his or her choice to turn on the “right” genes while suppressing the expression of the “wrong” ones. Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA in this study) turn on said genes and possess a myriad of salubrious benefits, one of which is slimmer waistline.

In my opinion, omega-3 fatty acids are the most important component of one’s supplement regimen. DO NOT assume that you eat enough fish to meet your daily “requirements.” Likely you don’t. Instead (or in addition) supplement aggressively with a purified omega-3 preparation. I recommend a minimum a 3,000 mg daily, of omega-3, not “fish oil.” And yes, there is a huge difference, and no the two are not interchangeable (are squats the equivalent of leg presses?). Remember, omega-3 fatty acids are a component of “fish oil,” but usually a minor component. So check your product label. Particularly if those Levi’s aren’t falling off you by now…


Lee MS, MS Kwun, IS Kim Y. Eicosapentaenoic acid increases lipolysis through up-regulation of the lipolytic gene expression and down-regulation of the adipogenic gene expression in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Genes Nutr. 2008 Feb;2(4):327-30.