New Study Reveals How Fish Oil Fights Inflammation
Is there anything omega-3 fatty acids can’t do? Well, sure, but based on the tide of research that continues to flow in on the benefits of fish oil, it would be forgivable to think of it as an all-powerful supernutrient.
The latest findings center on fish oil’s positive effects in the battle against diabetes. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine published in the September 3 issue of the journal Cell that they’ve identified the molecular mechanism that makes omega-3’s so effective in reducing chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.
Jerrold Olefsky, MD, and colleagues say in the journal that the DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) in fish oil activate a key macrophage receptor abundantly found in obese body fat, a G-protein receptor called GPR120, leading to an anti-inflammatory response and improved insulin sensitivity. Noting that obesity and diabetes are closely correlated, targeting this macrophage — which is a specialized white blood cell that digests cellular debris and pathogens — may bring hope for new disease-control approaches for the 23.6 million children and adults in the U.S. with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
“It’s just an incredibly potent effect,” said Olefsky, a professor of medicine and associate dean of scientific affairs for the UC San Diego School of Medicine. “The omega-3 fatty acids switch on the receptor, killing the inflammatory response.”
The receptor evolved to respond to a natural substance — omega-3 fatty acids — so the inflammatory process can be controlled, Olefsky explains. “Our work shows how fish oils safely do this, and suggests a possible way to treating the serious problems of inflammation in obesity and in conditions like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease through simple dietary supplementation.”
The researchers did caution that more study is required, including a determination of proper and safe dosage. But it’s definitely represents another positive reinforcement of fish oil supplementation in general, and a promising step toward developing new therapies for diabetes.