Omega-3 may boost heart health for diabetics

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Omega-3 fatty acids, Nutrition, Eicosapentaenoic acid

Daily supplements of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce levels of compound in the blood of diabetics linked to heart disease, says a new study from Iran.

According to findings published in the peer-reviewed Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases​ daily omega-3 supplements cut levels of homocysteine by 22 per cent, compared to less than 1 per cent in the placebo group.

“We found that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (3 g/day) for 2 months decreases the production of homocysteine in diabetic patients, which can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,”​ wrote the researchers from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences.

Studies have linked increased blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). It has been suggested that by lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood, people could cut the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the topic of homocysteine and CVD is somewhat controversial with some studies reporting reductions in levels of the amino acid, but no reductions in the incidence of CVD over time.

Study details

The Tehran-based researchers recruited 81 diabetics to take part in their randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a daily 3 gram dose of omega-3, providing 1,548 milligrams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), 828 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and 338 mg of other omega-3 fatty acids, or placebo, containing 2.1 g of sunflower oil (71 per cent linolenic acid, 16 per cent MUFA, and 12 per cent saturated fatty acids).

After two months of supplementation the researchers note significant reductions in levels of homocysteine of 3.10 micromoles per litre of blood, or about 22 per cent from their levels at the start of the study. On the other hand, the placebo group experienced a non-significant reduction of 0.10 micromoles per litre, less than 1 per cent of their initial values.

Furthermore, levels of haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), the form of haemoglobin usually used to follow plasma glucose concentrations over time respectively, were decreased by 0.75 per cent in the omega-3 group, but increased in the placebo group by 0.26 per cent. No changes in levels of fasting blood sugar (FBS), malondialdehyde (MDA), C-reactive protein (CRP), total cholesterol, and LDL-cholesterol levels were recorded.

“Our study shows that homocysteine levels were decreased significantly in the omega-3 fatty acid supplemented group and a significant difference was found between the treatment and the control groups before and after omega-3 fatty acid supplementation,”​ wrote the researchers.

Source: Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases​ Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2009.04.002“The efficacy of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on plasma homocysteine and malondialdehyde levels of type 2 diabetic patients”​Authors: Sh. Pooya, M.D. Jalali, A.D. Jazayery, A. Saedisomeolia, M.R. Eshraghian, F. Toorang

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