Fish oil supplementation and insulin sensitivity: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Lipids Health Dis. 2017 Jul 3;16(1):131. doi: 10.1186/s12944-017-0528-0.


Background: Fish oil supplementation has been shown to be associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and benefit a wide range of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and several types of cancers. However, the evidence of fish oil supplementation on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity is still controversial. This meta-analysis summarized the exist evidence of the relationship between fish oil supplementation and insulin sensitivity and aimed to evaluate whether fish oil supplementation could improve insulin sensitivity.

Methods: We searched the Cochrane Library, PubMed, Embase database for the relevant studies update to Dec 2016. Two researchers screened the literature independently by the selection and exclusion criteria. Studies were pooled using random effect models to estimate a pooled SMD and corresponding 95% CI. This meta-analysis was performed by Stata 13.1 software.

Results: A total of 17 studies with 672 participants were included in this meta-analysis study after screening from 498 published articles found after the initial search. In a pooled analysis, fish oil supplementation had no effects on insulin sensitivity compared with the placebo (SMD 0.17, 95%CI -0.15 to 0.48, p = 0.292). In subgroup analysis, fish oil supplementation could benefit insulin sensitivity among people who were experiencing at least one symptom of metabolic disorders (SMD 0.53, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.88, p < 0.001). Similarly, there were no significant differences between subgroups of methods of insulin sensitivity, doses of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) of fish oil supplementation or duration of the intervention. The sensitivity analysis indicated that the results were robust.

Conclusions: Short-term fish oil supplementation is associated with increasing the insulin sensitivity among those people with metabolic disorders.

Keywords: Fish oil; Insulin sensitivity; Meta-analysis; Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Databases, Factual
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Fish Oils / chemistry
  • Fish Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood
  • Metabolic Syndrome / drug therapy*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils