The GPR120 receptor is found only on pro-inflammatory macrophages in mature fat cells, according to the study.
Exposure to omega-3 fatty acids activates the receptor, which reduces the runaway pro-inflammatory cascade.
When researchers fed obese mice omega-3 fatty acids, inflammation subsided and insulin sensitivity improved. Blood glucose levels also dropped significantly, Talukdar said.
But 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.
"Prior to this point, people have always suspected omega-3s are beneficial. That's why people have been taking them," Talukdar said. "What we decided to ask was why omega-3 fatty acids can be anti-inflammatory. This shows when you give omega-3 fatty acids to an inflamed model, it might help battle insulin resistance."
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, researchers said.
The question that may first come to consumers' minds is: Should I be taking fish oil supplements?
Experts note that a positive (or negative) finding in animal research doesn't 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.
Dr. Jacob Warman, chief of endocrinology at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, called the results "impressive," but he said subsequent studies in people are needed.
Still, there's really no downside to taking fish oil -- and lots of people already do, Warman said.
Fish oil supplements are available over the counter, as well as by prescription. Doctors can also prescribe the drug Lovaza, made from fish oil, to help lower tri
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