People with type-2 diabetes get no benefit from taking omega-3 fish oil supplements, a new study has found. According to researchers from the University of East Anglia, while omega-3 supplements are not harmful for people with type-2 diabetes (this has been a concern previously), they don’t provide any benefit either. This contradicts a common belief that omega-3 can protect against diabetes and even reverse the condition. The study, which involved 58,000 participants, found that people who consumed more omega-3 had the same risk of developing diabetes as individuals who did not. Furthermore, taking omega-3 fish oil did not influence levels of blood glucose, insulin and glycated haemoglobin - all measures of how the body handles sugar. ‘Better to eat fish’ Douglas Twenefour, deputy head of care at Diabetes UK, said: “Eating a healthy, varied diet is incredibly important, and we know that certain foods - including fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, yoghurt and cheese - can help to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. “While omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for our overall health, it's generally better for people with type 2 diabetes to get their intake by eating at least two portions of oily fish a week, than by taking supplements." The advice from Dr Lee Hooper, who led the research, is to forego the expensive omega-3 supplements and instead buy oily fish and/or spend your money on physical activity, which will have more of a positive impact when it comes to type-2 diabetes.
Do you take supplements containing omega-3 fish oil in the belief they are helping to protect your heart? A new study suggests you could be wasting your money. Researchers from Cochrane analysed trials involving more than 100,000 people and discovered little proof that omega-3 supplements prevented heart disease. In fact, they say the chance of getting any benefits from such supplements is one in 1,000. However, despite this, the researchers still maintain that eating oily fish as part of a healthy diet is beneficial. Indeed, NHS guidelines state that people should try to eat two portions of fish each week, one of which, ideally, should be oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or fresh tuna. This is so they get enough “good” fats. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Tim Chico, a cardiologist from Sheffield University, said: “There was a period where people who had suffered a heart attack were prescribed these on the NHS. This stopped some years ago. “Such supplements come with a significant cost, so my advice to anyone buying them in the hope that they reduce the risk of heart disease, I'd advise them to spend their money on vegetables instead.” Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, said: “The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on cardiovascular health.” Nevertheless, Dr Carrie Ruxton from the UK’s Health and Food Supplements Information Service said supplements containing omega-3 can still play an important role for people who don’t eat oily fish – especially as omega-3 also benefits the brain, eyes and immune function.
New research suggests that the impact of dietary fats on our overall health is likely to be affected by the changes they cause in the stomach’s bacteria ecosystem. The findings, which were obtained by studies in mice, show that diets rich in omega-3 fats, such as fish oil, affect the gut’s balance of bacteria differently to diets rich in lard. Senior researcher Professor Fredrik Bäckhed, from the University of Gothenburg’s faculty of Health Sciences, also known as the Sahlgrenska Academy, led the team of European researchers who discovered that changes in gut microbiota are responsible for some of their health benefits. “We wanted to determine whether gut microbes directly contribute to the metabolic differences associated with diets rich in healthy and unhealthy fats,” said first study author Robert Caesar from the University of Gothenburg. And, even though the study was done in mice, he said: “our goal is to identify interventions for optimising metabolic health in humans.” Writing in the journal Cell Metabolism, Bäckhed’s team said they obtained their results by feeding either lard or fish oil to a group of mice for a period of 11 weeks. They then monitored the metabolic health of the study mice and found that dietary fat is a major community structure driver, which in turn affects the composition and diversity of gut microbiota. “We were surprised that the lard and the fish oil diet, despite having the same energy content and the same amount of dietary fibre—which is the primary energy source for the gut bacteria—resulted in fundamentally different gut microbiota communities and that the microbiota per se had such large effects on health,” said Bäckhed. Increased lard consumption promoted the growth of Bilophila, bacteria often linked to gut inflammation. In contrast, the fish oil diet increased the growth of Akkermansia muciniphila, bacteria known to reduce weight gain and improve glucose metabolism in mice. The bottom line is that eating a diet rich in fish oils is, as the study suggests, going to help you lose weight, compared to a diet rich in lard.