Can Eating Fish Help Curb Your Appetite?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

According the World Health Organization, by 2015 there will be more than 1.5 billion overweight people worldwide. Of course, the “no nonsense” solution to this would be to just eat less and exercise. And yes, this approach works if, and this is a BIG if, you actually follow through with your plans and make habits out of them.

And that’s precisely the problem many of us face. These types of long-term lifestyle changes can be difficult to implement, to say the least. For this reason, we’re always on the lookout for research that could help make things like controlling your appetite a bit easier.

People Who Eat Fish Weigh Less

It’s pretty clear that people who eat a lot of fish tend to weigh less. Not too many people would argue with this observation. Most experts believe that this happens because fish simply has fewer calories per serving than say beef, pork or chicken.

Here’s the case for the “fewer calorie” hypothesis. The following table shows different types of fish and other protein sources with the number of calories per 3 oz. serving — raw and uncooked:

Protein Source Calories
White Fish
Top Sirloin

Please note: the range of calories reflects several factors, such as the grade of meat and the presence or absence of skin.

It seems pretty simple, right? Eating fish brings in fewer calories. However, the difference in calories isn’t really all that dramatic.

The number of calories from pork, for instance, is pretty similar to most fish. This is what’s prompted scientists to wonder if something else was going on here, raising a new question: Could fish actually suppress appetite?

New Study Confirms Fish Protein Suppresses Appetite

Two hormones produced in the gut directly influence appetite. The idea is simple: Increasing the two hormones during feeding could suppress our appetite and help us eat less. This is exactly why in the recent past pharmaceutical companies have targeted these hormones, although with limited success.

The two hormones we’re talking about are:

  • Cholecystokinin (CCK) — stimulates the digestion of fat and protein, and suppresses appetite by binding to nerve cells in the central nervous system.
  • Glucagon-like Peptide 1 (GLP-1) — increases insulin production and sensitivity, as well as suppressing appetite.
French researchers successfully increased both of these hormones with protein from white fish — specifically blue whiting fish.1 They fed rats varying amounts of white fish extract and measured the levels of both hormones. They found that the hormone levels increased with increasing amount of the fish protein.

The researchers concluded: “The biological effects from increasing CCK and GLP-1 may potentially lead to promising therapeutic applications of this blue whiting [fish extract] in health and nutrition markets.”

Granted, this was a small rat study that followed the animals for only 12 days, but it’s certainly a decent start. It actually sheds new light on how fish can help suppress appetite and optimize weight beyond just eating fewer calories. More research is definitely needed to draw any serious conclusions, but it looks very promising. As such, we’ll certainly keep our eyes open for new developments.

Recipe: Whiting with Garlic and Lemon

Here’s a recipe from the Food Network website.2 It’s simple, tasty and very healthy — and who knows? It could even turn out to be appetite-suppressing!


  • 8 whole whiting
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour

Clean and fillet fish. Remove heads and tails. In bowl, mix 3/4 cup oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour. In large sauté pan, heat remaining oil. Sauté fish until golden brown. Remove and pour lemon mixture over and cover. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve. Makes four portions.

Give it a try, and comment below if you like it or not. Or maybe you have your own recipe you’d like to share with us. If so, please do!


  1. B. Cudennec. In vitro and in vivo evidence for a satiating effect of fish protein hydrolysate obtained from blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) muscle. Journal of Functional Foods. Online doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2011.12.003


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