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High intake of omega-3 fatty acids may decrease risk of diabetes

March 30, 2011

According to a new study with Alaskan Eskimos, increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of obesity-related chronic diseases such as diabetes type 2.

In the observational study, blood samples from 330 Eskimos with an average age of 45 were analyzed for omega-3fatty acids and risk factors of obesity -related chronic diseases, such as high concentrations of blood triglycerides and C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of inflammation (1). Obesity was a factor among
70 percent of the participants. The analysis showed that elevated CRP and triglyceride levels were mainly observed among obese Eskimos with low eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) status; such increased levels were not observed in participants with high blood levels of these omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers commented that these findings may have important clinical relevance for the prevention of some obesity-related diseases. Research has shown that obesity is associated with high blood concentrations of triglycerides and CRP, two biomarkers that strongly and independently predict risks of cardiovascular disease and possibly diabetes. The Alaskan Eskimos have similar obesity rates to the populations of the other US states, but the incidence of type 2 diabetes is only 3.3 percent, compared with 7.7 percent nationally. Since the Eskimos’ average consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish is 20 times higher than that of others groups, the lower prevalence of diabetes might be attributed, at least in part, to the Eskimos’ higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, genetic, lifestyle and other dietary factors may account for this difference.

The researchers called for a randomized controlled trial to test whether increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake significantly reduces the effects of obesity on inflammation and blood triglycerides.

References

  1. Makhoul Z. et al. Associations of obesity with triglycerides and C-reactive protein are attenuated in adults with high red blood cell eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011.