Fish oil won't save diabetics' hearts, research suggests

June 11, 2012 By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter
Fish oil won't save diabetics' hearts, research suggests
Experts say statins, not omega-3 supplements, lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.

(HealthDay) -- People with type 2 diabetes who take omega-3 fatty acid supplements are neither helping nor harming their heart, a new study finds.

Omega-3 -- the type found in fish oil -- are hugely popular because research has linked them to a reduction in heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems. However, this study found no such benefits among people with type 2 , the researchers say.

"Previous studies had suggested that fish-oil supplements may have a modest benefit in these outcomes -- we did not find that at all," said researcher Dr. Hertzel Gerstein, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Perhaps diabetics react differently to these supplements, or their risk of is so severe that a higher dose of the supplement would be needed to see an effect, Gerstein said.

"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," he said.

Type 2 diabetes, a condition linked to being overweight and marked by excess blood sugar, can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke, if it's uncontrolled.

The report was published June 11 online in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the planned presentation of the study findings at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association in Philadelphia.

For the study, more than 12,500 people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes and at high risk of cardiovascular events were randomly assigned to take a daily, 1-gram omega-3 fatty acid supplement or an inactive placebo. Over roughly six years, the researchers looked for deaths from cardiovascular causes.

The investigators found that taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement had no effect on deaths from heart attack, stroke, other cardiovascular causes or any other cause.

The supplement did lower the levels of triglycerides, which may be an indicator of cardiovascular disease risk. But omega-3 fatty acid supplements had no effect on other lipids, such as "good" HDL cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol, the researchers noted.

Dr. Joel Zonszein, professor of clinical medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said few studies have shown convincingly that treating high triglycerides or low HDL cholesterol improves cardiovascular outcomes.

"These lipoproteins, while good markers, do not appear to benefit when treated, particularly when compared with statins," he said.

"Treating LDL cholesterol, especially in patients with type 2 diabetes, is critical, and statins are best," Zonszein said.

Another expert, Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said patients ask about whether or not they should take omega-3 supplements to lower cholesterol.

"We tell them that statins are drugs that are proven to lower the bad cholesterol and are associated with a reduction in cardiovascular risks," he said.

There are patients who take fish oil on their own, Mezitis said. "We tell these patients they can continue taking , but it doesn't take the place of a statin," he said.

The study was funded by drug maker Sanofi.

Explore further: No proof fibrate drugs reduce heart risk in diabetes patients on statins

More information:
For more information on diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Major fall in diabetes-related amputations since the 1990s

November 22, 2015

A major new study has found a significant reduction in diabetes-related amputations since the mid-1990s, credited to improvements in diabetes care over this period. The research is published in Diabetologia (the journal of ...

Blocking immune cell treats new type of age-related diabetes

November 18, 2015

Diabetes is often the result of obesity and poor diet choices, but for some older adults the disease might simply be a consequence of aging. New research has discovered that diabetes—or insulin resistance—in aged, lean ...

Bacteria may cause type 2 diabetes

June 1, 2015

Bacteria and viruses have an obvious role in causing infectious diseases, but microbes have also been identified as the surprising cause of other illnesses, including cervical cancer (Human papilloma virus) and stomach ulcers ...

Engineered hot fat implants reduce weight gain in mice

August 20, 2015

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a novel way to engineer the growth and expansion of energy-burning "good" fat, and then found that this fat helped reduce weight gain and lower blood glucose ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.