The secret of how fish oil helps prevent heart disease and diabetes is believed to have been unlocked by scientists who now hope to develop new dietary remedies and drugs to reduce conditions such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Fish such as sardines and mackerel are packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, which scientists believe could also help in cancer and dementia treatment due to the effects omega-3 can have on the immune system.
The US researchers found that omega-3 interacts with macrophages, specialised white blood cells that engulf and digest cellular debris and harmful molecules. Macrophages secrete proteins that trigger inflammation, but omega-3 was found to latch on to a switch-like receptor on macrophage cells and stop this happening.
When the GPR120 receptor is turned off, the macrophage produces inflammatory effects. Omega-3 switches the receptor on, causing a chain of biochemical events that lead to inflammation shutting down.
Professor Jerrold Olefsky, from the University of California at San Diego, said: “It’s just an incredibly potent effect. The omega-3 fatty acids switch on the receptor, killing the inflammatory response.”