Fish oils have many health benefits, including lowering triglycerides, blood pressure, and regulating abnormal heart rhythms. It can also reduce the risk of death from heart attack and strokes, and slows plaque buildup in the arteries.
Now researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified the molecular mechanism that makes omega-3 fatty acids such a great health benefit, particularly in reducing chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.
The scientists say omega-3 fatty acids activate a “macrophage receptor,” which is found in abundance in the fat of people who are obese.
Macrophages are white blood cells that engulf and digest cellular debris and pathogens. Since obese people have a lot of these macrophages in their fat tissue, this can cause chronic inflammation and a rise in insulin resistance.
When resistance occurs, insulin becomes less effective at regulating blood sugar levels in the body, which causes a number of health issues, including type 2 diabetes.
But omega-3 fatty acids seem to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
“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 study is further progress in finding a dietary way to combat the dangerous rise in diabetes cases.
“Our work shows how fish oils safely [control inflammation], and suggests a possible way to treat the serious problems of inflammation in obesity and in conditions like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease through simple dietary supplementation,” said Olefsky.