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Mouse Study May Help Explain Fish Oil's Benefits
Date:9/3/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Feeding obese mice omega-3 fatty acids reduced inflammation that can lead to diabetes, a new study finds.

Fish oil supplements that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most popular dietary supplements in the United States. While omega-3 fatty acids are widely believed to be beneficial, exactly how they work hasn't been well understood, said study co-author Saswata Talukdar, a post-doctoral fellow at University of California, San Diego.

By studying fat tissue in the mice consuming fish oil, researchers found omega-3 fatty acids seem to act on a particular receptor on cells, GPR120, which, when activated, blocks inflammatory processes.

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," Talukdar explained.

The study was published in the Sept. 3 issue of the journal Cell.

Fat tissue contains macrophages, immune system cells that gobble up bacteria, clear out cellular debris and help rid the body of infection. But macrophages found in fat can also have a downside. When macrophages "go rogue," Talukdar said, they produce cytokines and other pro-inflammatory proteins.

A build up of cytokines can result in a "signaling cascade," that eventually leads to low-grade, chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, Talukdar said. In people with insulin resistance, cells are unable to properly utilize insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. That can lead to type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to obesity.

While studying fat tissue, researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), acted on the specific receptor, GPR120 (for G protein-coupled receptor), found on the su
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