The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, known to benefit heart health, may also be effective in reducing diabetes risk. In a new Italian clinical trial, participants randomly assigned to omega-3 capsules showed improvement on markers of insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes.
The inverse association between dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease morbidity/mortality was primarily established following the observation that the Greenland Inuits had low mortality from coronary heart disease despite a fat-rich diet, explained Giuseppe Derosa, MD, PhD, of the University of Pavia, and colleagues. Our group has already shown that omega-3 fatty acids improved the lipid profile and the coagulation, fibrinolytic [breaking down of clots], and inflammatory parameters compared to placebo. We also observed that highly purified omega-3 fatty acid supplementation significantly reduced the blood pressure, pulse pressure, and basal heart rate in hypertriglyceridemic [high triglycerides] patients with normal-high blood pressure.
To determine whether omega-3s could also improve insulin resistance, researchers gave 167 participants either one gram of omega-3s (EPA and DHA) or a placebo three times a day, during meals, for six months. The markers of insulin resistance were tested after a meal containing other fats; all these markers improved in the omega-3 group, but not in the placebo group.
Besides the insulin-resistance improvements, those in the omega-3 group also saw higher HDL (good) cholesterol numbers and better triglyceride measures. There was no difference in total cholesterol or LDL (bad) cholesterol.
The effect of omega-3s on insulin resistance, Dr. Derosa and colleagues concluded, is another important action of omega-3 fatty acids which can increase their utility in the clinical practice.
TO LEARN MORE: European Journal of Lipid Sciences and Technology, online first; abstract at dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejlt.201000504.