Adaptive thermogenesis by dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: Emerging evidence and mechanisms

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2019 Jan;1864(1):59-70. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2018.04.012. Epub 2018 Apr 19.


Brown/beige fat plays a crucial role in maintaining energy homeostasis through non-shivering thermogenesis in response to cold temperature and excess nutrition (adaptive thermogenesis). Although numerous molecular and genetic regulators have been identified, relatively little information is available regarding thermogenic dietary molecules. Recently, a growing body of evidence suggests that high consumption of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) or activation of GPR120, a membrane receptor of n-3 PUFA, stimulate adaptive thermogenesis. In this review, we summarize the emerging evidence that n-3 PUFA promote brown/beige fat formation and highlight the potential mechanisms whereby n-3 PUFA require GPR120 as a signaling platform or act independently. Human clinical trials are revisited in the context of energy expenditure. Additionally, we explore some future perspective that n-3 PUFA intake might be a useful strategy to boost or sustain metabolic activities of brown/beige fat at different lifecycle stages of pregnancy and senescence. Given that a high ratio of n-6/n-3 PUFA intake is associated with the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes, understanding the impact of n-6/n-3 ratio on energy expenditure and adaptive thermogenesis will inform the implementation of a novel nutritional strategy for preventing obesity.

Keywords: Adaptive thermogenesis; Beige adipocytes; Brown adipocyte; Fish oil; GPR120; N-6/n-3 ratio; Thermogenic diet; UCP1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Thermogenesis / drug effects*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3