Aims/hypothesis Epidemiological research indicates that long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC n-3 PUFA) improve insulin resistance. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of seafood consumption on insulin resistance in overweight participants during energy restriction.Methods In this 8 week dietary intervention, 324 participants (20-40 years, BMI 27.5-32.5 kg/m(2), from Iceland, Spain and Ireland) were randomised by computer to one of four energy-restricted diets (-30E%) of identical macronutrient composition but different LC n-3 PUFA content: control (n = 80; no seafood; single-blinded); lean fish (n=80; 150 g cod, three times/week); fatty fish (n=84; 150 g salmon, three times/week); (4) fish oil (n=80; daily docosahexaenoic/eicosapentaenoic acid capsules, no other seafood; single-blinded). Fasting glucose, insulin, adiponectin, plasma triacylglycerol and fatty acids in erythrocyte membrane were measured at baseline and endpoint. Insulin resistance was calculated using the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). Linear models with fixed effects and covariates were used to investigate the effects of seafood consumption on fasting insulin and HOMA-IR at endpoint in comparison with the control group.Results Of the participants, 278 (86%) completed the intervention. Fish oil intake was a significant predictor of fasting insulin and insulin resistance after 8 weeks, and this finding remained significant even after including weight loss, triacylglycerol reduction, increased LC n-3 PUFA in membranes or adiponectin changes as covariates in the statistical analysis. Weight loss was also a significant predictor of improvements.Conclusions/interpretation LC n-3 PUFA consumption during energy reduction exerts positive effects on insulin resistance in young overweight individuals, independently from changes in body weight, triacylglycerol, erythrocyte membrane or adiponectin.Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00315770.Funding: The YOUNG study is part of the SEAFOODplus Integrated Project, which is funded by the EC through the 6th Framework Programme Contract No. FOOD-CT-2004-506359.