September 4/Los Angeles/Xinhua General News Service -- A test on mice shows that taking omega-3 fatty acids may counteract inflammation that can lead to diabetes.
When obese mice were fed with omega-3 fatty acids, inflammation subsided, insulin sensitivity improved and blood glucose levels dropped significantly, said researchers at University of California in San Diego (UCSD).
Omega-3 fatty acids seem to act on a particular receptor on cells, GPR120, which, when activated, blocks inflammatory processes, the researchers noted in the study.
The GPR120 receptor is found only on pro-inflammatory macrophages in mature fat cells, according to the study appearing in the September 3 issue of the journal Cell.
Exposure to omega-3 fatty acids activates the receptor, which reduces the runaway pro-inflammatory cascade.
However, in obese mice that had their GPR120 receptor "knocked out" through genetic modification, omega-3 fatty acids had no effect, thus underscoring the researchers' findings, according to the study.
Chronic inflammation can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
Therefore, "if we can fix the inflammation part, it's possible that we could prevent insulin resistance or even ameliorate diabetes," said study co-author Saswata Talukdar, a post-doctoral fellow at UCSD.
This study focused on diabetes, but omega-3 fatty acids may also help with other diseases in which inflammation plays a role, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, the researchers said.
However, experts note that a positive (or negative) finding in animal research does not guarantee the same result in people. Mice are often used in animal experiments because of their remarkable genetic similarity to humans, they say, but the majority of mice and other animal research fails to produce rewards for humans.
From the September 20, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition