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No Omega-3 Benefit in Type 2 Diabetes

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, commonly derived from fish and plant oils, show no beneficial cardiovascular effect in persons with type 2 diabetes, according to a new study. In previous studies, omega-3 fatty acids have been noted as a risk-lowering supplement for heart attacks, strokes, and a list of other heart problems. This study however, showed no evidence to suggest the same effect could be seen in type 2 diabetes patients.

“Previous studies had suggested that fish-oil supplements may have a modest benefit in these outcomes—we did not find that at all,” said Dr. Hertzel Gerstein, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, who worked on the study.

The study involved 12,500 subjects, all of whom were with type 2 diabetes and at risk for heart problems, for a two-year research period. The subjects were randomized to receive either 1-gram of omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo containing around 1-gram of olive oil. For the six-year follow up period, researchers were to look for study outcomes such as death from cardiovascular causes, strokes, or hospitalizations for the same cause.

Of the subjects receiving omega-3 fatty acid supplements, 9.1 percent or a number translating to 574 patients died from cardiovascular causes. When compared to placebo where deaths from the same cause were at 9.3 percent, omega-3 supplementation was not significant in reducing the rate of deaths.

Gerstein added that what might be behind this lack of effect is that the diabetic patient’s risk for cardiovascular diseases may be too high for the supplement to give an effect at a low dose. He also said that type 2 diabetes patients, who are commonly high-risk individuals for cardiovascular events, may not be able to react to omega-3 supplements in the same way as non-diabetics.

Such lack of effect seen from the supplement led Gerstein to suggest that the use of low-dose omega-3 fatty acids will not save a diabetic person from the risk of heart diseases. However, the researchers did note that the supplement lowered triglycerides, a measure used to check heart health and cardiovascular disease risk. Still, other indicator lipids such as HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol had no reaction to the supplement.

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