The Oil That May Cut Diabetes Risk
Fish oil supplements could help reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, new research suggests.
The supplements, also known as omega-3 fatty acids, increase levels of a hormone called adiponectin that’s linked to insulin sensitivity, Harvard researchers found. Higher levels of this hormone in the bloodstream have also been linked to a lower risk for heart disease.
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“While prior animal studies found fish oil increased circulating adiponectin, whether similar effects apply in humans is not established,” the study’s lead author, Jason Wu, from the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a news release from the Endocrine Society.
For their study, the researchers conducted a “meta-analysis” of 14 clinical trials. A meta-analysis reviews existing research and attempts to find a consistent pattern. In this case, the studies that were reviewed were all randomized, placebo-controlled trials, which is considered the gold standard in research.
“By reviewing evidence from existing randomized clinical trials, we found that fish oil supplementation caused modest increases in adiponectin in the blood of humans,” Wu explained.
Overall, the new study looked at 682 people who took fish oil supplements, and 641 who were given placebos such as sunflower or olive oil.
Among the people treated with fish oil, adiponectin levels increased by 0.37 micrograms per milliliter of blood. This hormone plays a beneficial role in processes that affect metabolism, such as blood sugar regulation and inflammation.
Because the effects of fish oil varied significantly in the studies analyzed, the researchers suggested that omega-3 fatty acids could have a stronger effect in certain groups of people. The investigators concluded that more research is needed to determine which people would benefit most from fish oil supplements.
“Although higher levels of adiponectin in the bloodstream have been linked to lower risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease, whether fish oil influences glucose [blood sugar] metabolism and development of type 2 diabetes remains unclear,” Wu said.
“However, results from our study suggest that higher intake of fish oil may moderately increase blood level of adiponectin, and these results support potential benefits of fish oil consumption on glucose control and fat cell metabolism,” he added.
But the association does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between fish oil supplementation and decreased diabetes risk.
Roughly 37 percent of adults and 31 percent of children in the United States take fish oil supplements, according to a 2007 survey by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The study is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. It was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Skip Breakfast…Get These Diseases?
Whether you’re too busy, trying to lose weight or are just not genuinely hungry, there’s really no good reason to skip breakfast. In fact, new research has found that not eating breakfast may actually increase an overweight woman’s risk of getting diabetes.
When women skipped the morning meal, they experienced insulin resistance, a condition in which a person requires more insulin to bring their blood sugar into a normal range, explained lead researcher Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, an instructor of medicine at the University of Colorado.
This insulin resistance was short-term in the study, but when the condition is chronic, it is a risk factor for diabetes. “Eating a healthy breakfast is probably beneficial,” Thomas said. “It may not only help you control your weight but avoid diabetes.”
The new study included only nine women. Their average age was 29, and all were overweight or obese. Thomas measured their levels of insulin and blood sugar on two different days after the women ate lunch. On one day, they had eaten breakfast; on the other day, they had skipped it. The women’s insulin and glucose levels after lunch were much higher on the day they skipped breakfast than on the day they ate it. On the day they did not eat breakfast, Thomas explained, “they required a higher level of insulin to handle the same meal.”
There wasn’t any good news for men who skipped breakfast either.
Men who reported that they regularly skipped breakfast had a higher risk of a heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease in a study reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
Researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaire data and tracked health outcomes for 16 years (1992-2008) on 26,902 male health professionals ages 45-82. They found that men who reported they skipped breakfast had a nearly 30 percent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who reported they didn’t.
So does this mean that you should stuff your face with pasta or donuts at 7 am? No, no, no! In fact, the diet consumed by the morning big-eaters, while effective for weight loss, leaves something to be desired. Certainly, it’s better balanced than the pastries-with-coffee option, which offers essentially no nutrients, no protein, and plenty of health-destroying bad fats and sugar. But the diet that led to weight loss contained no fruit or vegetables in the morning (although afternoon and evening meals had these elements), and also contained lots of dairy.
There are better ways to get a well-balanced morning slam without loading up on mucous-producing, allergy-inducing, immune-destroying, hormone-laden milk, cheese, nitrate-spiked breakfast meats, and buttered toast…