HEALTHY LIVING
05/23/2013 12:03 pm ET Updated Jul 23, 2013

Fish Oil May Help Fight Type 2 Diabetes, But Link Unclear

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By Jeffrey Kopman

There's something fishy about the news that omega-3 supplements may help fight type 2 diabetes. Researchers believe fish oil can help with glucose regulation, but they don't yet understand whether it has a direct impact on type 2 diabetes development, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed data from 14 studies involving 1,323 subjects to determine the effects of fish oil supplements on diabetes risk factors. In total, 682 subjects had taken fish oil supplements. The researchers found that fish oil was associated with an increase in the level of the hormone adiponectin - which effects glucose regulation and inflammation. Their findings confirmed previous animal studies that also found fish oil can raise the level of adiponectin in the bloodstream.

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Scott Drab, PharmD., CDE, BC-ADM, associate professor of pharmacy and therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh, says people with diabetes can benefit from taking fish oil supplements. "Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties, and because insulin resistance is associated with inflammation, we recommend fish oil to our patients," said Dr. Drab. "Anything used as an anti-inflammatory can help glucose levels."

Miracle Cure for Diabetes

It may help glucose levels, but the authors of the Harvard study were not convinced that the increase in adiponectin levels associated with fish oil could directly prevent type 2 diabetes.

"Although higher levels of adiponectin in the bloodstream have been linked to lower risk of diabetes, whether fish oil influences glucose metabolism and development of type 2 diabetes remains unclear," said the study's lead author, Jason Wu, PhD, in a press release. "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."

Despite his endorsement of fish oil supplements for people with diabetes, Drab doesn't believe it's the answer to the diabetes problem.

"It's not our main treatment, but it's another notch in the belt in the fight against diabetes," Drab said. "Diet and exercise are probably better options than just taking fish oil."

Other Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

This latest study of omega-3s study found a link between fish oil and diabetes. Other studies have found that they can be good for your health in other ways.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and postpartum depression, help the brain function of Alzheimer's patients, and treat autoimmune diseases.

"Far From Fin-ished: Fish Oil May Help Fight Type 2 Diabetes, But Link Unclear" originally appeared on Everyday Health.

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