Fish oils could help reduce inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes

University of California, San Diego School of Medicine scientists have unveiled the mechanism behind the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids in reducing inflammation and insulin resistance associated with type 2 diabetes.

Lead author Dr Jerrold Olefsky and his colleagues found a key receptor on the surface of macrophages, white blood cells that digest pathogens and cellular debris. These important components of the human immune system are involved in releasing inflammatory proteins such as cytokines.

Obese individuals have a high level of macrophages in their fat tissue, which may result in chronic inflammation.

The scientists identified a receptor called GPR120, which is only found on these pro-inflammatory fat tissue macrophages. When the receptor was turned off, they saw inflammatory effects. However, when exposed to omega-3 fatty acids, the receptor was activated and generated a powerful anti-inflammatory response.

"It's just an incredibly potent effect," Olefsky said. "Our work shows how fish oils safely [control inflammation] and suggests a possible way to treating the serious problems of inflammation in obesity and in conditions like [type 2] diabetes through simple dietary supplementation."

The findings were published in the September 3 issue of the journal Cell.