Skeletal muscle plays a major role in the control of whole body glucose disposal in response to insulin stimulus. Excessive supply of fatty acids to this tissue triggers cellular and molecular disturbances leading to lipotoxicity, inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunctions, impaired insulin response and decreased glucose uptake.

This study was conducted to analyze the preventive effect of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a long-chain polyunsaturated n-3 fatty acid, against insulin resistance, lipotoxicity and inflammation in skeletal muscle at doses compatible with nutritional supplementation.

DHA (30 μM) prevented insulin resistance in C2C12 myotubes exposed to palmitate (500 μM) by decreasing protein kinase C (PKC)-θ activation and restoring cellular acylcarnitine profile, insulin-dependent AKT phosphorylation and glucose uptake. Furthermore, DHA protected C2C12 myotubes from palmitate- or lipopolysaccharide-induced increase in Ptgs2, interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor-α mRNA level, probably through the inhibition of p38 MAP kinase and c-Jun amino-terminal kinase. In LDLR -/- mice fed a high-cholesterol-high-sucrose diet, supplementation with DHA reaching up to 2% of daily energy intake enhanced the insulin-dependent AKT phosphorylation and reduced the PKC-θ activation in skeletal muscle.

Therefore, DHA used at physiological doses participates in the regulation of muscle lipid and glucose metabolisms by preventing lipotoxicity and inflammation.