Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

3rd International Immunonutrition Workshop

Session 3: Fatty acids and the immune system

Regulation of adipokine secretion by n-3 fatty acids

21–24 October 2009, The 3rd International Immunonutrition Workshop, Platja D'Aro, Girona, Spain.

María J. Moreno-Aliagaa1 c1, Silvia Lorente-Cebriána1 and J. Alfredo Martíneza1

a1 Department of Nutrition, Food Science, Physiology and Toxicology, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain


Obesity leads to several chronic morbidities including type 2 diabetes, dyslipidaemia, atherosclerosis and hypertension, which are major components of the metabolic syndrome. White adipose tissue (WAT) metabolism and WAT-derived factors (fatty acids and adipokines) play an important role in the development of these metabolic disturbances. In fact, dysregulated adipokine secretion from the expanded WAT of obese individuals contributes to the development of systemic low-grade inflammation, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. The n-3 PUFA EPA and DHA have been widely reported to have protective effects in a range of chronic inflammatory conditions including obesity. In fact, n-3 PUFA have been shown to ameliorate low-grade inflammation in adipose tissue associated with obesity and up-regulate mitochondrial biogenesis and induce beta-oxidation in WAT in mice. Moreover, the ability of n-3 PUFA to regulate adipokine gene expression and secretion has been observed both in vitro and in vivo in rodents and human subjects. The present article reviews: (1) the physiological role of adiponectin, leptin and pre-B cell colony-enhancer factor/visfatin, three adipokines with immune-modulatory properties involved in the regulation of metabolism and insulin sensitivity and (2) the actions of n-3 PUFA on these adipokines focusing on the underlying mechanisms and the potential relationship with the beneficial effects of these fatty acids on obesity-associated metabolic disorders. It can be concluded that the ability of n-3 PUFA to improve obesity and insulin resistance conditions partially results from the modulation of WAT metabolism and the secretion of bioactive adipokines including leptin, adiponectin and visfatin.

(Online publication June 14 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr María J. Moreno-Aliaga, fax + 34 948 42 56 49, email