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Omega-3 fats offer ‘zero benefit’ for type 2 diabetes, says research

People with type 2 diabetes get little or no benefit from taking fish oil supplements, new research says.

A study, commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) and published by the British Medical Journal, took in data from 83 trials across the globe.

Researchers found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements neither prevented diabetes type 2 nor helped those already diagnosed with the condition.

New research, published by the BMJ, took in data from 121,000 people in 83 studies across the globe and found that omega-3 had no effect on diabetes

The latest review looked at information on 121,000 people, some already with diabetes type 2, from 83 studies across the world, excluding Africa and Antarctica.

While omega-3, found in oily fish, nuts and seeds, lowers blood pressure, reduces fat levels in blood and helps prevent blood clots, it was found not to impact levels of blood glucose, insulin and glycated haemoglobin, which are important measures when calculating the risk of type 2 diabetes.

“We found neither harm or benefit. This is really expensive stuff. If somebody’s at risk of diabetes, there are much better things to spend money on, like a physical activity – or oily fish.”

Dr Lee Hooper, University of East Anglia

The paper’s conclusion stated: ‘Evidence suggests that increasing omega-3, omega-6, or total PUFA has little or no effect on prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

However, concerns that taking omega-3 could be harmful for people with the condition proved unfounded by the evidence.

Lead researcher Dr Lee Hooper, of the University of East Anglia, said: “Our previous research has shown long-chain omega 3 supplements do not protect against… heart disease, stroke or death.

“This review shows that they do not prevent or treat diabetes either. Omega-3 supplements should not be encouraged for diabetes prevention or treatment.

The study also found weak evidence that taking omega-3 could be harmful to people with type 2 diabetes although lead researcher at the University of East Anglia, Dr Lee Hooper, suggested people should not consume more than 4.4g per day

“If people do choose to take supplementary fish oil capsules… then they should use doses of less than 4.4g per day to avoid possible negative outcomes.

‘This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects.”

He added: ‘The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega 3 fats on diabetes.”

Diabetes UK said eating oily fish, nuts and seeds as part of a healthy diet was the best way to consume omega-3. The NHS currently advises two portions of fish a week – including at least one of oily fish.

It’s estimated around £60million is spent on omega-3 supplements in Britain annually.

Dr Hooper concluded: “We found neither harm or benefit. This is really expensive stuff. If somebody’s at risk of diabetes, there are much better things to spend money on, like a physical activity – or oily fish.”

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University of East Anglia