(NaturalNews) Omega-3 fatty acids are "incredibly potent" anti-inflammatories, which may explain why they have been linked with lowered rates of diabetes and heart disease, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California-San Diego and published in the journal Cell.
In an experiment conducted on mice, the researchers examined how omega-3s interact with specialized white blood cells known as macrophages, which digest harmful molecules and cellular debris. As part of their operation, macrophages naturally secrete chemicals that produce an inflammatory response.
The researchers found that macrophages contain an omega-3 receptor, GPR120, that causes them to stop producing these inflammatory chemicals.
In a second experiment, the researchers genetically modified a group mice to lack a GPR120 receptor, then fed a high-fat diet to both modified and normal mice. All the mice became obese and developed diabetes. When their diets were then supplemented with omega-3s, only the non-modified mice exhibited improvement in their symptoms. In these mice, omega-3 supplementation was as effective at restoring insulin sensitivity as the drug Avandia.
"It's just an incredibly potent effect," researcher Jerrold Olefsky said. "The omega-3 fatty acids switch on the receptor, killing the inflammatory response.
"This is nature at work. The receptor evolved to respond to a natural product -- omega-3 fatty acids -- so that the inflammatory process can be controlled. Our work shows how fish oils safely do this, and suggests a possible way to treating the serious problems of inflammation in obesity and in conditions like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease through simple dietary supplementation."
Omega-3 fatty acids naturally occur in fish oil and in some vegetable foods such as canola oil, flax seeds, chia, kiwifruit, and purslane. Many researchers now believe that the average Western diet contains a lower content of these oils than is necessary for optimal health.