Hepatic steatosis, an early stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, is commonly present in obesity and type 2 diabetes, and is associated with reduced hepatic omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n3-PUFA) status that impacts on the anti-inflammatory and insulin sensitizing functions of n3-PUFA. Our objective was to directly compare plant- and marine-based n3-PUFA (α-linoleic acid (ALA)), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) for their effects on hepatic steatosis, markers of hepatic inflammation and fibrosis, and insulinemia in obese rats. Fa/fa Zucker rats were provided diets containing ALA, EPA, DHA, or linoleic acid (LA, n6-PUFA) for eight weeks and compared to baseline fa/fa rats and lean Zucker rats fed LA-rich diet for eight weeks. Both DHA and EPA groups had liver lipid similar to baseline, however, DHA was more effective than EPA for reducing hepatic fatty acid synthase (FAS), increasing the proportion of smaller lipid droplets, reversing early fibrotic damage, and reducing fasting hyperinsulinemia. EPA was more effective for reducing FoxO1. Dietary ALA did not attenuate hepatic steatosis, most inflammatory markers or FAS. In summary, amongst the n3-PUFA, DHA was the most effective for elevating hepatic DHA levels, and preventing progression of hepatic steatosis via reductions in FAS and a marker of fibrosis.
Keywords: docosahexaenoic acid; eicosapentaenoic acid; fa/fa Zucker rats; hepatic steatosis; inflammation; n3-fatty acids; α-linoleic acid.