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Research Findings on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Randomized clinical trials have found that omega-3 supplementation reduces the incidence of cardiovascular disease and events (such as heart attack and stroke) and slows the progression of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). However, these studies were not done in populations that were at higher risk, such as those with type 2 diabetes.
With regard to studies on omega-3 supplementation as a possible natural remedy for diabetes, there is somewhat more literature available than for most other alternative treatments for this condition. A 2001 analysis was published by the Cochrane Collaboration of 18 randomized placebo-controlled trials on fish oil supplementation in type 2 diabetes. The authors found that fish oil lowered triglycerides and raised LDL cholesterol but had no significant effect on:
  • Fasting blood glucose
  • HbA1c
  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol.
(The authors did not identify and include studies with cardiovascular outcomes, but noted that this is an area for further research.)
Another analysis was published in 2004 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of 18 studies on omega-3 fatty acids for a number of measurable outcomes in type 2 diabetes. This study confirmed virtually all the Cochrane authors' findings, except for finding no significant effect on LDL cholesterol.
Additional studies are needed to determine whether omega-3 supplements are safe and beneficial for heart problems in people with type 2 diabetes. Studies that look specifically at heart disease outcomes in this population are needed.
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