Try Fish Oil To Improve Insulin Sensitivity & Prevent Metabolic Disorders
No one wants to develop diabetes—a condition in which cells don’t respond properly to the hormone insulin. One way to improve insulin sensitivity is to consume more omega-3 fat. Known as “fish oil,” omega-3 fat is incorporated into the outside lipid layer of cells, making it easier for insulin to bind with receptors so that glucose can be better used for energy.
For people at risk of metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure or triglycerides, belly fat, high blood sugar, or low HDL cholesterol) supplementing with fish oil can improve insulin sensitivity.
Insulin is a hormone that allows the body to use glucose (sugar) for energy or store it as fat. As cells become resistant to insulin, the body is more likely to store glucose as fat and inflammation increases.
Reduced insulin sensitivity is associated with fat gain and increased risk of diabetes. Naturally, nutrition plays a pivotal role in how sensitive the cells are to insulin. Diets high in refined carbs and unhealthy fats are associated with reduced insulin sensitivity. Eating more high-fiber foods (vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains) are associated with greater sensitivity to insulin.
The type of fat you eat also impacts insulin sensitivity. When you consume seafood or fish oil supplements, the omega-3 fat is incorporated into the outside lipid layer of cells, making it easier for insulin to bind with receptors so that glucose can be better used for energy. Eating fish a few times a week is a smart idea because it provides the omega-3 fat to keep your cells sensitive to insulin.
What about supplementing with fish oil?
A review of the issue found that for people with at least one risk factor for metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high triglycerides, elevated fasting glucose, excess belly fat, low HDL cholesterol), supplementing with fish oil significantly improved insulin sensitivity.
The Bottom Line: Lifestyle factors can have a large impact on preventing metabolic syndrome. Fish oil supplementation should be used along with the other tools in your toolbox for protecting insulin health: Physical activity, diet, sleep, and stress management are all game changers when it comes to metabolic health and insulin sensitivity.
Gao, H., et al. Fish oil supplementation and insulin sensitivity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2017. 16(131).