Omega-3 Fats Fight Inflammation and Type 2 Diabetes
One more time, scientific research confirms the benefits of Omega 3 fats in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, among others. Because, for whatever reason, our body cannot produce these fats, we need to include them in our diet. As I have been saying in my prior articles, fish, especially fatty fish, is the best source. Here is the study as published by the Toronto Sun.
By Dr. Richard Beliveau, Special to QMI Agency
September 27, 2010
Several studies have suggested that the health benefits associated with the consumption of omega-3 fats are linked to their anti-inflammatory abilities. Recent information also shows that this impact is caused by the fat’s direct interaction with immune system cells that are responsible for causing inflammation.
Omega-3 are essential fats that we as humans cannot create ourselves and must therefore come from our diets. Flaxseed and certain nuts (walnuts in particular) are good sources of omega-3 (short chain), while fatty fish is a primary source of animal-source omega-3 (long chain). The regular consumption of these foods is important because a lack of omega-3 is directly associated with the development of several cardiovascular and neurological diseases, as well as cancer.
The positive impact that omega-3 fats have is due to various effects it has on the person. For example, the presence of long-chain omega-3 in cell membranes allows them to be more malleable, therefore facilitating several processes. Similarly, the presence of omega-3 in heart cell membranes facilitates regular beats of the cardiac muscle and also prevents potentially fatal arrhythmias.
In addition to improving cellular function, omega-3 fats also play a key role in reducing inflammation. Several mechanisms enter into play here: for example, plant-source omega-3 prevents the synthesis of elements that produce inflammatory compounds (COX-3), as well as several compounds that begin the inflammatory process (IL-6, TNF). Animal-source omega-3, such as DHA and EPA, have natural anti-inflammatory properties that prevent the immune system from damaging tissues.
These properties assure that a diet rich in these compounds can prevent the creation of a chronic inflammatory climate inside the organism, while at the same time preventing the development of diseases that depend on this inflammation to spread.
Type 2 diabetes is one of the best examples of diseases that are linked to chronic inflammation. When a person is overweight, the tissues overloaded with fats are considered a threat by the immune system by attracting a large number of macrophages, a type of inflammatory blood cell. These cells secrete a cocktail of inflammatory compounds that damage the surrounding cells and make them unable to control sugar levels in response to the insulin signal. Over time, this insulin resistance will cause the pancreas to stop functioning, leading to a high blood-sugar level characteristic of diabetes.
A group of American researchers recently showed that long-chain omega-3 fats could counteract the inflammation associated with obesity and the subsequent development of type 2 diabetes. They observed that DHA and EPA were specifically linked to a protein called GPR120, a receptor located exclusively on the surface of inflammatory macrophages.
This link causes a series of complex reactions that result in complete inhibition of the production of inflammatory compounds by macrophages. Among animals, the impact of this anti-inflammatory action is spectacular: the simple addition of a source of omega-3 to the diet of obese mice caused a dramatic reduction of inflammation, as well as a marked improvement in the response to insulin.
These observations show once again that what we eat can have major repercussions on how we function, and consequently, to our well-being and health. It is therefore recommended that people eat one to two meals per week that include products rich in omega-3, notably fish like salmon and sardines, in an effort to reduce and prevent inflammation and disease.
To Your Health!
Emilia Klapp,RD, BS