Omega 3 and Diabetes – A Miracle Supplement?

omega-3-symbolOmega-3 and diabetes has been getting a tremendous amount of attention lately, but this shouldn’t surprise you. Unless you’ve been living as a monk, you have heard of omega-3 and the amazing impact it can have on your health.

Anyone familiar with the New York Times bestselling authors Dr. Nicholas Perricone, Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Barry Sears know the value they (and many others) place on omega 3 for good health.

Scientists have also found is that omega 3 and diabetes health is very important.

Technically, omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that naturally occurs primarily in fish, fish oil, walnuts, wheat germ and vegetable oil (canola and soybean). Omega-3 is vital for multiple bodily processes, including the cellular transfer of calcium and other substances through cell membranes, muscle movement, blood clotting, digestion, fertility and cell growth.

There is a tremendous amount of focus on omega 3 as a protection against heart disease, inflammation reducer and lowering cholesterol. According to experts like Dr. Perricone, he takes the argument one further step and claims that the lack of omega 3 in one’s diet may be the cause for the rise in disorders such as obesity, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, depression and, yes, diabetes.

He quips that if we all just ate a can of sardines a day, we would age better and be more beautiful. The flip side would be that we could also better control our blood sugar levels.


So, what does the science say about omega-3 and diabetes? Ignoring any diabetes related studies, omega -3 has been shown to reduce cholesterol and reduce instances of cardiovascular disease in numerous studies.

There appears to be at least one tangential study where the effect of omega 3 on diabetics was discussed. The study was not specifically aimed at diabetics, meaning some of the people in the study had diabetes, but not all.

The study found that omega 3 had no affect on controlling blood glucose levels. However, both the Americans with Diabetes and American Heart Association advocate omega 3 for its health benefits.

Another study was done by a researcher at the University of Virginia. The issue studied was the rise in incidences of diabetes in Inuit populations. Traditionally, Inuits ate a diet high in fish, and correspondingly, omega 3.

As a more western diet has been introduced, the occurrences of diabetes have soared. The UVA study took a small group (44) of Inuits with early signs of diabetes. With a controlled diet of traditional food (high in fish, low in saturated fat), no one in the study developed diabetes after four years.


omega-3-and-diabetesWhile the Omega-3 and Diabetes link may be less than clear, Omega-3 was always thought to be a “no-brainer” for improving heart health. As cardiovascular disease is a major concern for diabetics, omega 3 has always been thought to be a good choice for those seeking to reduce this complication.

In fact, the American Heart Association advices that people should eat at least two servings a week of fatty fish, e.g., salmon. A serving is about 3.5 ounces.

However, recently, in 2012, a large study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that omega 3 supplementation did not alter the risk of death in high risk cardiovascular patients over 50 years old.

Okay, so where do we stand now? Like most subjects in the medical field, the outcome is constantly evolving as new studies are done and more knowledge is gained. I would also note that there are many other studies that do show a positive impact of supplementing with Omega 3. While the benefit seems to be somewhat inconclusive, there doesn’t appear to be any harm to it.

Thus, talk to your doctor about his or her thoughts about getting started with this supplement. If you are taking other medications, it is important to know how each medication interacts with one another. Only your doctor can help you with this.


Here is a partial list of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acid:

  • Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil
  • Salmon
  • Chia Seed
  • Caviar
  • Sardines
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Mackerel
  • Butternuts
  • Walnuts
  • Fresh Basil


Omega 3Fatty Acids and Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health (Accessed March 2009).
Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids from Fish in Type 2 Diabetes, Joyce Nettleton, DSc RD, (accessed March 2009).
Nature Bottled, Erika Gebel, Diabetes Forecast, February 2012.
The New EnglandJournal of Medicine, n–3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients with Dysglycemia, N Engl J Med 2012; 367:309-318 (Accessed April 2013).
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed April 2013.