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European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2013) 67, 1234–1242; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.197; published online 16 October 2013

Omega-3 fatty acids: a review of the effects on adiponectin and leptin and potential implications for obesity management

B Gray1,2,3, F Steyn4, P S W Davies1,3 and L Vitetta2,3

  1. 1Children’s Nutrition Research Centre, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, The University of Queensland, Royal Children’s Hospital, Herston, QLD, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Integrative Clinical and Molecular Medicine, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Woolloongabba, QLD, Australia
  3. 3School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia
  4. 4The School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia

Correspondence: B Gray, Children’s Nutrition Research Centre, The University of Queensland, Old Milk Kitchen, Royal Children’s Hospital, Crn Fourth Avenue and Back Road, Herston, QLD 4029, Australia. E-mail:

Received 21 April 2013; Revised 13 August 2013; Accepted 8 September 2013
Advance online publication 16 October 2013



An increase in adiposity is associated with altered levels of biologically active proteins. These include the hormones adiponectin and leptin. The marked change in circulating concentrations of these hormones in obesity has been associated with the development of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Variations in dietary lipid consumption have also been shown to impact obesity. Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids have been correlated with the prevention of obesity and subsequent development of chronic disease sequalae. This review explores animal and human data relating to the effects of omega-3 fatty acids (marine lipids) on adiponectin and leptin, considering plausible mechanisms and potential implications for obesity management. Current evidence suggests a positive, dose-dependent relationship between omega-3 fatty acid intake and circulating levels of adiponectin. In obese subjects, this may translate into a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. In non-obese subjects, omega-3 is observed to decrease circulating levels of leptin; however, omega-3-associated increases in leptin levels have been observed in obese subjects. This may pose benefits in the prevention of weight regain in these subjects following calorie restriction.


adiponectin; leptin; adipokines

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