Omega-3 fatty acids as regulators of brown/beige adipose tissue: from mechanisms to therapeutic potential


Adipose tissue dysfunction represents the hallmark of obesity. Brown/beige adipose tissues play a crucial role in maintaining energy homeostasis through non-shivering thermogenesis. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity has been inversely related to body fatness, suggesting that BAT activation is protective against obesity. BAT plays also a key role in the control of triglyceride clearance, glucose homeostasis, and insulin sensitivity. Therefore, BAT/beige activation has been proposed as a strategy to prevent or ameliorate obesity development and associated commorbidities. In the last few years, a variety of preclinical studies have proposed n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) as novel inducers of BAT activity and white adipose tissue browning. Here, we review the in vitro and in vivo available evidences of the thermogenic properties of n-3 PUFAs, especially focusing on the molecular and cellular physiological mechanisms involved. Finally, we also discuss the challenges and future perspectives to better characterize the therapeutic potential of n-3 PUFAs as browning agents, especially in humans.

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Correspondence to Maria J. Moreno-Aliaga.

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Key points

n-3 PUFAs are regulators of the thermogenic program in brown/beige adipocytes.

n-3 PUFA thermogenic actions involve UCP1-dependent and UCP1-independent mechanisms.

n-3 PUFAs regulate fetal BAT and offspring metabolism via epigenetic modifications.

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Fernández-Galilea, M., Félix-Soriano, E., Colón-Mesa, I. et al. Omega-3 fatty acids as regulators of brown/beige adipose tissue: from mechanisms to therapeutic potential. J Physiol Biochem (2019).

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  • Obesity
  • Adipose tissue
  • Browning
  • n-3 PUFAs