Omega-3 fatty acids for diabetes

The American Diabetes Association magazine Diabetes Forecast has a good discussion on the value of omega-3 fatty acids (including fish oil supplements) and their significance for people with diabetes, or at risk for developing diabetes. The September 2010 issue of this ADA magazine, for example, reports on a study showing that omega-3 fatty acid supplements boosted heart health in people with Type 2 diabetes. After a year of monitoring, it was found that a group of people with Type 2 diabetes who took the supplements had significantly less development of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries that can lead to heart attack or stroke) than the control group that didn’t take the omega-3s.

The next question is how to get these beneficial omega-3 fatty acids effectively. Here’s an excerpt from the Diabetes Forecast magazine recommendations. This covers the dietary sources of omega-3s, and also gives good advice about how to use supplements:

All omega-3s aren’t created equal, so knowing the type you’re getting is important. The most potent omega-3s are EPA and DHA; that’s why your best bet is to eat plenty of oily fish like salmon, herring, and halibut. […]

If you are allergic to fish, are a vegetarian, or just can’t stomach the taste, you can still add omega-3 to your diet by eating plant-based ALA-rich foods–you’ll just have to eat more to get the same amount of EPA and DHA you’d get from fish because some omega-3s are lost as the body converts ALA to EPA and DHA. Good sources of ALA include flax seed oil and flax meal, walnuts and walnut oil, pecans, olive oil, and canola oil. “The flax meal is one of the easiest things to use. It has a very nice, nutty flavor,” says Susan Mitchell, PhD, RD, a registered dietitian, nutrition consultant, and coauthor of Fat Is Not Your Fate. She recommends adding flax to smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal, or drizzling walnut oil over salads.

Another way to get the essential fatty acids is by eating omega-3-enriched foods. “You have to do just a little more homework,” says Mitchell, who recommends checking a product’s packaging for sources of omega-3 (some may list DHA-rich algae oil in the ingredients). Simopoulos says omega-3-enriched eggs also provide a good amount of EPA and ALA. Or try hemp-fortified foods (such as certain cereals); according to Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, a registered dietitian with a private practice in Newport Beach, Calif., and author of the Ultimate Omega-3 Diet, they contain stearidonic acid, which helps increase the concentration of EPA in the body.

If you can’t get enough omega-3 from your diet, consider taking a supplement. […] One option for those who do not eat fish is a DHA-enriched algae supplement, but otherwise fish oil is the ideal choice. Even those who are allergic to fish can take a fish oil supplement, says Simopoulos. That’s because fish oil supplements don’t contain the proteins that cause an allergic reaction. Fish oil supplements don’t have any side effects–though some people complain about an aftertaste or fishy-tasting burps. (You can try taking your supplement before a meal to prevent this.)

Note–NYBC stocks Max DHA – Omega-3 Fish Oil(Jarrow) and Pro Omega – Nordic Naturals Fish Oil. See product entries for more infomration on suggested usage.

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