Omega-3 Helps Protect The Liver and Increase Insulin Tolerance in Obese

Originally written: March 2009
Updated: April 2018

Omega-3 fatty acids help protect the liver against obesity related damage, primarily caused by insulin resistance. The 2009 study further supports past research that suggested that omega-3 fatty acids should become more prominent in general daily diets, but with increased importance for obese individuals.

An abundance of past research has indicated several potential health benefits linked to omega-3 fatty acid consumption. These benefits range from anti-cancer properties and arthritis relief, to increased blood circulation, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are types of unsaturated fats, and can be found within several nutritional sources.  Fish oil is renowned for its high omega-3 content, while flax seeds, kiwi’s, walnuts, eggs, canola oil, some grass-fed meats, and many other consumables, contain decent levels of omega-3 as well.

This study focused on four groups of obese and diabetic mice. It is known that obesity is a leading cause of the pre-diabetic condition, insulin resistance, which often has the effect of causing liver damage. According to the researchers, the group of mice being fed an omega-3 rich diet (the other three groups being fed a control diet, a docosahexaenoic acid diet, and a diet with solely the lipid resolvin, which is a component of omega-3, respectively), demonstrated increased insulin tolerance, and diminished liver damage. It was concluded by the researchers that this observation was due to a combination of the lipids resolvin and protectin, found in omega-3. Says study author Dr. Joan Claria, “Our study shows for the first time that lipids called protectins and resolvins derived from omega-3 fatty acids can actually reduce the instance of liver complications, such as hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance, in obese people.”

While there was already good reason to eat diets rich in omega-3, this study provides more direct support for obese individuals, especially those at high risk for diabetes, to make their diets higher in omega-3 content. As mentioned before, this can be done by eating more fish, using canola oil as opposed to other oils for cooking, as well as consuming numerous other fruits, nuts and other foods, that contain substantial amounts of omega-3.

Original Source: Claria, Joan. Mooneyhan, Cody. The FASEB Journal news release. February 2009.

Update: A 2017 study published in Scientific Reports showed a connection between diets high in Omega 3 fatty acids and healthier gut health and possible reduction of Oxidative Stress (link) and lowered incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes.


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