The Benefits of Fish Oil in Avoiding Complications of Diabetes

December 27, 2010

There are 2.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and it’s estimated that there are a further 850,000 undiagnosed people with the condition. Unfortunately, there are many serious complications associated with diabetes including nerve damage, amputation, blindness or heart disease and new research currently being funded by leading health charity Diabetes UK aims to determine if regular doses of medication derived from fish oil could be used to improve this situation.

Keith McCormick at the University of Southampton is to conduct an 18-month clinical trial on 100 people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes to determine whether taking high-doses of purified n-3 long chain fatty acids can improve the function of nerves and small blood vessels in the feet of those with a higher chance of developing the condition.

This will be done by giving them a medication derived from fish oil found in Norwegian sardines (named OMACOR) but whether that is each individual sardine or their family name isn’t quite clear – at least to me. The object of the study is to use the data obtained to improve our knowledge of the link between nerve function and blood vessel damage.

People with diabetes are susceptible to develop serious health complications as previously described and this is as a result of neuropathy where the nerves and small blood vessels become damaged. Sensory neuropathy is the most common form and mainly affects the nerves in the feet and legs. The loss of sensation in these limbs can make people with diabetes vulnerable to foot wounds and these complications can develop even before diabetes is diagnosed.

Apparently those OMACOR sardines have already proved to be extremely successful in the treatment of high triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood, so I sincerely hope there are plenty of such fish in the sea and they don’t fall fall foul of fishing quotas.

This is a valuable area to explore as diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges facing the UK today. It takes approximately 10 per cent of NHS spending, £9 million a year, and neuropathy and blood vessel damage are behind many of the complications of diabetes, which ultimately lead to 100 amputations each week in the UK.

Because Type 2 diabetes can go undetected for up to ten years, 50 per cent of people already have complications, such as neuropathy, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke, by the time they’re diagnosed. The research being funded at the University of Southampton therefore has the potential to identify a readily available treatment to prevent some of the serious complications of diabetes and protect those at risk.

If you would like more information on diabetes, then The Diabetes UK Careline offers information and support on any aspect of managing diabetes. The line is a low cost number (0845 120 2960) and opens Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. Recorded information on a number of diabetes-related topics is also available on this number 24 hours a day.


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