To study the effects of dietary fish oil on insulin-stimulated glucose metabolism in adipocytes of insulin-resistant rats (rats fed 50% sucrose and 30% fat), eighteen 5-wk-old Sprague-Dawley rats were fed, for 6 wk, a diet containing 30% fat as either fish oil (FO) or a mixture of vegetable and animal oils [control oils (CO)]. A third reference group was fed a standard diet (62% corn starch and 13% fat).

At the end of the 6-wk period, the two experimental groups had comparable plasma glucose concentrations that were higher than that found in the reference group. FO feeding corrected the hyperinsulinemia of the experimental rats (P < 0.05) to reach values in the reference group. Plasma triacylglycerol (P < 0.01) and cholesterol (P < 0.001) concentrations were also lower in rats fed FO than in those fed CO. The body weights of FO-fed rats were similar to that of CO-fed rats, but epididymal adipose tissue weight was lower (P < 0.01). Adipocytes of FO-fed rats, compared with those of CO-fed rats, had high insulin-stimulated glucose transport (P < 0.05), oxidation (P < 0.001) and incorporation into total lipids (P < 0.05). The incorporation of (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids in adipocyte membrane phospholipids was higher in FO-fed rats than in those fed CO (P < 0.0001).

Insulin action was positively correlated with the fatty acid unsaturation index in membrane phospholipids. Thus dietary fish oil has beneficial effects on insulinemia, plasma lipids and insulin-stimulated glucose metabolism in insulin-resistant slightly diabetic rats.