Omega – 3 Fatty Acids for Diabetes Care
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential to Diabetic health. Omega-3 fatty acids have been of interest for diabetes mellitus because having Type 2 Diabetes increases the risk of a person getting heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 oils tend to keep the blood from clotting. Omega-6 oils tend to help the blood clot.
Diabetics need a balance of both oils to live healthy lives – to help our cuts stop bleeding: Omega-6 oils; to avoid serious clots that cause heart attacks: Omega-3 oils. Some food sources containing polyunsaturated fatty acids include fish, fish oil, some vegetable oils (primarily canola and soybean), walnuts, wheat germ and certain dietary supplements. As supplements, omega-3 fatty acids are marketed as capsules or oils, often as fish oil.
There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic (i-CO-sa-pen.ta-no.ic) (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (do.CO.sa.hex.an.oic) acid (DHA), which are found mainly in oily cold-water fish, such as cod liver, salmon, trout, herring, sardines, bass, swordfish, and mackerel. With the exception of seaweed, most plants do not contain EPA or DHA. However, is found in dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oil, fish oil, and canola oil, as well as nuts and beans, such as walnuts and soybeans. Enzymes in a person’s body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA.
Summary of the Research Findings
Of the studies done to date on omega-3 supplementation for type 2 Diabetes, a 2001 analysis was published by the Cochrane Collaboration, of 18 randomized placebo-controlled trials on fish oil supplementation in type 2 Diabetes. The authors found that fish oil lowered triglycerides and raised LDL cholesterol but had no significant effect on fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, total cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol.
Another, very small, 2002 study preliminarily showed that after three months of using Omega-3 supplements, a reduction in insulin resistance was observed in overweight people who were insulin resistant. The basis of this research was the fact that Greenland Eskimos who get a lot of Omega-3 fatty acids from eating whale blubber have very low rates of Type 2 Diabetes.
Additional studies are needed to determine whether omega-3 supplements are effective in preventing heart problems in people with Type 2 Diabetes. Studies that look specifically at heart disease outcomes in this population are needed. Currently, Australian researchers are investigating the effects of fish oil on patients with kidney disease undergoing dialysis.
Side Effects and Possible Risks
Omega-3 oils appear to be safe for most adults at low-to-moderate doses. There have been some safety questions raised about fish oil supplements, because certain species of fish can be contaminated with substances from the environment, like mercury, pesticides, or PCBs. Fish oil is on the list of food substances that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS.) Buy pharmaceutical grade fish oil to know exactly what chemicals are present in it.
How well a product is prepared is another factor for consumers to consider. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take fish oil supplements. Fish oil in high doses can possibly interact with, and affect the action of, certain medications, including blood-thinning drugs and drugs for high blood pressure. Potential side effects of fish oil include a fishy aftertaste, belching, stomach disturbances, and nausea. Tell your medical team about all supplements and medications you are taking – especially if you suspect side effects.
For Diabetes Care
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times a week. This dietary suggestion has been resoundingly endorsed by the American Diabetes Association and many other world renowned experts in related fields of study. In fact, some experts are expanding the range to indicate that fish should be eaten as much as 4 times per week!
Fish is a good source of protein and does not have the high saturated fat that fatty meat products have. Fatty fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon are high in both kinds of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A person’s diet should include a variety from that list.
It is also suggested that we eat tofu and other forms of soybeans, canola, walnut, and flaxseed, and their oils. Increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake through foods is preferable. However, coronary artery disease patients may not be able to get enough omega-3 by diet alone. These people may want to talk to their doctor about taking a supplement. Supplements also could help people with high triglycerides, who need even larger doses.
The availability of high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplements – pharmaceutical grade, free of contaminants, is an important prerequisite to their use. Fish oil supplements are best taken at or near the beginning of a meal to avoid any fishy aftertaste.
1. National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine ( a Division of the National Institutes of Health; NIH)
http://nccam.nih.gov/health/diabetes/#omega. Page last modified August 31, 2006. Accessed May 23, 2007.
2. Gretchen Becker “Prediabetes: What You Need to Know to Keep Diabetes Away”.
3. Sandra L. Woodruff, Dr Christopher D Saudek, M.D. “The Complete Diabetes Prevention Plan”.
4. Oncology Encyclopedia – Thomson Gale.
5. Michael Murray, N.D. and Michael Lyon, M.D. “How to Prevent and Treat Diabetes with Natural Medicine”; 2003.
6. Canadian Diabetes Association. “Beyond the Basics Resource”. 2006