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Insulin resistance is a significant health care problem in the United States, with type 2 diabetes affecting more than 300 million people. Insulin resistance is preventable and reversible through lifestyle changes, proper nutrition, supplements, exercise and stress management. Weight loss and exercise are the best remedies for restoring the body's ability to respond to insulin. 

While previous research has shown omega-3 fatty acids mitigate insulin resistance linked to obesity, results have been inconsistent. 

According to a new study published last week in Nutrients, researchers investigated the effect of DHA-rich fish oil on glycogen synthase kinase (GSK-3), which is linked to insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease. GSK-3 is involved in Aβ plaques as well as Tau phosphorylation, which is elevated in patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

This was a double-blind randomized control trial including 58 individuals between the ages of 18 and 70 years of age with mild to moderate abdominal obesity. Participants were excluded if they had been diagnosed with diabetes or were on blood sugar lowering medications that could affect insulin sensitivity, such as Metformin. Each participant consumed 2 grams of fish oil consisting of 860 mg of DHA and 120 mg EPA or a placebo (corn oil) per day for a 12-week period. Anthropometric measurements were conducted using bio-electrical impedance scales. Height, weight, and waist circumference were measured and body mass index (BMI) was calculated. Laboratory assessment included fasting glucose, fasting insulin, hs-CRP, total cholesterol, RBC fatty acids, and GSK-3β. As a result, the DHA-rich fish oil significantly reduced GSK-3 and reduced insulin resistance compared to the placebo. Baseline CRP and fasting insulin levels were positively correlated, indicating the relationship between low-grade systemic inflammation and hyperinsulinemia. 

This study demonstrates the effect of DHA-rich fish oil improving insulin sensitivity by helping to reduce GSK-3 levels in individuals at a high risk of hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance with high baseline CRP levels. DHA-rich fish oil should be considered to help reduce the risk of developing metabolic disease and associated comorbidities as well as potentially helping  to reduce insulin resistance in individuals with higher inflammation levels.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: Docosahexaenoic Acid-Rich Fish Oil Supplementation Reduces Kinase Associated with Insulin Resistance in Overweight and Obese Midlife Adults. Nutrients 30 May 2020, 12(6), 1612.