Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) of marine origin, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been long studied for their therapeutic potential in the context of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and glucose homeostasis. Glaring discordance between observations in animal and human studies precludes, to date, any practical application of n-3 PUFA as nutritional therapeutics against insulin resistance in humans. Our objective in this review is to summarize current knowledge and provide an up-to-date commentary on the therapeutic value of EPA and DHA supplementation for improving insulin sensitivity in humans. We also sought to discuss potential mechanisms of n-3 PUFA action in target tissues, in specific skeletal muscle, based on our recent work, as well as in liver and adipose tissue. We conducted a literature search to include all preclinical and clinical studies performed within the last two years and to comment on representative studies published earlier. Recent studies support a growing consensus that there are beneficial effects of n-3 PUFA on insulin sensitivity in rodents. Observational studies in humans are encouraging, however, the vast majority of human intervention studies fail to demonstrate the benefit of n-3 PUFA in type 2 diabetes or insulin-resistant non-diabetic people. Nevertheless, there are still several unanswered questions regarding the potential impact of n-3 PUFA on metabolic function in humans.
Keywords: DHA; EPA; insulin resistance; mitochondria; muscle; n-3 PUFA.