Omega-3 fish oil supplements reduce cardiovascular disease in diabetics

According to a new study from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran, daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce levels of a trigger substance linked to heart disease in diabetics.

Results published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease suggest that high doses of omega-3 fish oil daily (3 grams per day) cut levels of the amino acid homocysteine by 22%, compared with less than 1% in the placebo group.

81 diabetics took part in this randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial, which lasted two months with participants randomly assigned to either receive 3 grams of omega-3 or a sunflower oil placebo daily.

Previous research has linked increased levels of homocysteine with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. By lowering levels of this amino acid in the blood, scientists believe it is possible to reduce their heart disease risk, providing support for the inclusion of omega-3s as part of the diabetic diet. Evidence is not yet conclusive however, and further research needs to be conducted before firm conclusions may be drawn.

The number of diabetics diagnosed with the disease soared by 70,000 in the UK between 2006-7, according to a report by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care.
According to their report, people affected by diabetes in the UK has climbed to 3.7 per cent, with a record number of 1,986,200 people diagnosed with the condition; a further 750,000 people are likely to have diabetes and not be aware of it. These figures paint a worrying picture for the health of the nation.

The Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, Douglas Smallwood, commented: “These figures are truly alarming as diabetes is a serious condition, which can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and nerve damage that can cause amputation . We need to do all we can to raise awareness of the condition and to encourage people to follow a healthy diet, and pursue an active lifestyle to help them reduce their risk of developing diabetes.”

When you consider that the impact of our 24/7 culture is that we tend to drive to work, drink a little too much, eat too few freshly prepared meals (not to mention that most of us are probably short on dietary fibre) you can appreciate why diabetes is becoming a real problem.

This is not to say that there’s nothing we can do about it, however. Simple changes to our diet and lifestyle and dramatically decrease our chance of developing diabetes and, if you’re affected already, it is definitely possible to influence the likelihood of associated health problems as the condition advances. As a nutrition scientist I would advise a diet with increased fibre, whole grains, few sugars, as well as cutting out the bad fats – this is actually a good approach for anyone.

I’d also add to the diet highly concentrated omega-3 fish oil containing pure EPA, an active component of fish oil which is especially beneficial for reducing the risk of complications in the cardiovascular system. OmegaForce is ideal in this respect, as it combines with pure EPA the omega-6 GLA (highly anti-inflammatory) with the omega-9 oleic acid from olive oil, its benefits associated with the healthy Mediterranean diet.

For more information about omega-3 fatty acids and how they can be included as part of the diet, click here.

A Natural Science-based Solution for Depression

Isn’t it strange that whilst we would probably all consider ourselves as reasonably tolerant and open minded that there is still such a huge stigma when we think about depression. If we haven’t experienced depression directly it’s highly probable that we know someone, be they a friend, relative or workmate, who suffers. I have a friend myself who was diagnosed with major depression just under a year ago. Slowly she has become quite reclusive mostly because, she tells me, she’s ashamed and embarrassed. She talks about her black days. Days with no focus, and with very little meaning or purpose. “They come less often”, she had said to me, “but nevertheless they still come. You just learn to deal with it Nina, It’s like there’s a wall between you and the world but someone’s turned the lights off too. So what’s the point of living in isolated darkness? Oh and there’s pain too. Just to top it. Immense and unbearable pain. So there we have it. Pain, darkness and isolation that is the be-all and end-all of your life.”

I didn’t really know what to say to that. Who would? She’s been taking Prozac for the last 6 months and she tells me that whilst she sees a difference she feels sick most of the time. That’s not unusual though, because that’s the trouble with most anti-depressants – the side effects. And so we got talking and I asked what was it she did with her time, did she go out, what did she eat? “I can’t be bothered” was the main theme of her answers. Not because she was lazy, there was just a lack of motivation. She’d got into a negative pattern of not going out or doing much more than watching T.V. But it was her eating patterns that really made me think. She didn’t cook at all. Everything she ate (if and when she ate) came out of a packet. Her whole diet was pretty appalling really and she seemed to have very little understanding that the food we eat really can affect our mood. So I found myself asking more and more questions. One of them was “do you ever eat fish?” The answer was a straight no, well not since it was forced on her as a child (at this point she actually laughed). So we sat and talked about changes she could make and how certain foods could help. I told her how omega-3 from fish oils can benefit people with depression. In fact the American Psychiatric Association actually recommends treatment with at least 1 gram daily of fish oil for depression, as an addition to standard treatment. We don’t get offered that here. In fact there are probably very few GPs in the UK who know about the benefits of fish oils as an alternative or as an add-on, even though more and more trials are showing that EPA (the active omega-3 in fish oil) has a distinct anti-depressant role. If you compare EPA with Prozac, just 1gram daily can equal the benefits of a standard 20 mg Prozac dose and there are no side effects!

“But be fussy” I said. “Not all fish oils are the same, don’t go for cheap like most people do. There’s meaning to the saying that ‘you get what you pay for’. Interestingly, as the link between fish and depression risk strengthens, with it comes products formulated specifically to help. Remember that it’s EPA that you need to look for on the product label, and if you combine this with a good source of gamma linolenic (GLA) then you’re laughing, literally.

Recommended reading material:

An eminent psychiatrist and researcher, Professor Basant Puri, proposes an alternative option to conventional treatments for depression, arguing that standard treatments often fail to address the underlying biochemical factors. I thoroughly recommend his book The Natural Way to Beat Depression – The Groundbreaking Discovery of EPA to Change Your Lifea well-written, concise and informative read for anyone affected by this debilitating condition.