For Type 2 Diabetes, Fish Oil Offers No Heart Protection
< Jun. 13, 2012 > -- If you have type 2 diabetes and take fish oil supplements to prevent heart disease, they aren't providing much help, a new study says.
The supplements - rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids - do help cut the risk for heart attack, stroke, and other heart problems in people who don't have diabetes.
"Previous studies had suggested that fish oil supplements may have a modest benefit" for people with diabetes, says researcher Hertzel Gerstein, M.D., at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. "We did not find that at all."
Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, either type 1 or type 2. People with diabetes who don't keep their blood sugar under control are at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
But, says Dr. Gerstein, "if you want to prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes, going out and buying omega-3 fatty acids is not going to do it."
For the study, published online this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers followed more than 12,500 people with either type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, a precursor to the disease. All were at high risk for heart attack or stroke.
The participants were randomly assigned to take either a daily supplement of omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo.
During the six-year study, the researchers looked at any causes of death among the participants. They found that taking the supplement had no effect on deaths from heart attack, stroke, other cardiovascular causes - or any other cause.
No effect on LDL cholesterol
Although the supplements did lower triglyceride levels, they did not affect levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol or LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Spyros Mezitis, M.D., at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says patients ask about whether they should take omega-3 supplements to lower cholesterol.
"We tell them that statins are drugs that are proven to lower the bad cholesterol," Dr. Mezitis says.
Some patients take fish oil on their own, he says. "We tell these patients they can continue taking fish oil, but it doesn't take the place of a statin."
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Lifestyle Changes for Managing Diabetes
Because of recent medical advances, people with diabetes can do a lot more these days to help control their disease. Here are lifestyle changes you can make:
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.
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