The incidence of obesity and its comorbidities, such as insulin resistance and type II diabetes, are increasing dramatically, perhaps caused by the change in the fatty acid composition of common human diets. Adipose tissue plays a role as the major energy reservoir in the body. An excess of adipose mass accumulation caused by chronic positive energy balance results in obesity. The n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) exert numerous beneficial effects to maintain physiological homeostasis. In the current review, the physiology of n-3 PUFA effects in the body is delineated from studies conducted in both human and animal experiments. Although mechanistic studies in human are limited, numerous studies conducted in animals and models in vitro provide potential molecular mechanisms of the effects of these fatty acids. Three aspects of n-3 PUFA in adipocyte regulation are discussed: (1) lipid metabolism, including adipocyte differentiation, lipolysis and lipogenesis; (2) energy expenditure, such as mitochondrial and peroxisomal fatty acid β-oxidation; and (3) inflammation, including adipokines and specialized pro-resolving lipid mediators. Additionally, the mechanisms by which n-3 PUFA regulate gene expression are highlighted. The beneficial effects of n-3 PUFA may help to reduce the incidence of obesity and its comorbidities.

PMID: 27735847

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