The effect of ω-3 fatty acids derived from fish and marine mammals on subjects with normal glucose tolerance is still unclear. The aim of the present study was to test whether the hypolipidemia that follows the chronic administration of cod liver oil, rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω-3), to normal rats is accompanied by changes in glucose metabolism, insulin secretion and sensitivity, and pancreatic insulin content. To achieve this goal, male Wistar rats were fed with a semisynthetic diet (w/w): 62.5% cornstarch, 7% cod liver oil plus 1% corn oil, and 17% protein (CD + CLO). Control rats were fed with the same semisynthetic diet with the only exception that the source of fat was 8% (w/w) corn oil (CD). Both diets were administered adlibitum for 1 month. At the end of the experimental period, the results obtained were as follows (mean ± SEM): serum triacylglycerol (mM): CD + CLO 0.21 ± 0.04 vs. CD 0.58 ± 0.05 (p < 0.05); free fatty acids (µM): CD + CLO 257 ± 20 vs. CD 288 ± 22 (p = NS); total cholesterol (mM): CD + CLO 1.13 ± 0.09 vs. CD 1.82 ± 0.06 (p < 0.05); high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (mM): CD + CLO 0.58 ± 0.08 vs. CD 1.07 ± 0.04 (p < 0.05); plasma glucose (mM): CD + CLO 6.30 ± 0.29 vs. CD 6.28 ± 0.10 (p = NS); liver triacylglycerol (µmol/liver): CD + CLO 104.1 ± 11.4 vs. CD 136.8 ± 4.3 (p < 0.05); glycogen (µmol/g wet weight): CD + CLO 298.3 ± 21.0vs.CD297.0 ± 19.0 (p = NS); glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (U/liver): CD + CLO 37.9 ± 2.2 vs. CD 58.8 ± 5.0 (p < 0.05); triacylglycerol secretion (nmol/min/100 g body weight): CD + CLO 101.0 ± 2.0 vs. CD 166.0 ± 9.7 (p < 0.01); removal of fat emulsion (K2% min-1): CD + CLO 15.0 × 10-2 ± 0.8 ×10-2 vs.CD8.2 × 10-2 ± 0.2×10-2 (p < 0.01); intravenous glucose tolerance (kg 10-2):CD + CLO 2.68 ± 0.37 vs. CD 2.70 ± 0.14 (p = NS); immunoreactive insulin (µU/ml/ min): with the area under the curve between 0 and 30 min CD + CLO 544 ± 60 vs. CD 1,050 + 38 (p < 0.05), with the area under the curve between 0 and 60 min CD + CLO 1,188 ± 150 vs. CD 2,160 ± 137 (p < 0.05), and pancreas insulin content (mU/mg pancreas): CD + CLO 1.85 ± 0.29 vs. CD 2.04 ± 0.12 (p = NS). In conclusion, the present study shows that the strong hypolipidemic effect produced by the administration of low doses of fish oil to normal rats is accompanied by a significant reduction of plasma insulin levels without changes in glucose tolerance. Since no changes in pancreatic insulin content were observed, lower plasma insulin levels, both basal and after an intravenous glucose challenge, may be the result of an increased peripheral insulin sensitivity in normoglycemic animals.

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