A diet rich in omega-3 fats may protect obese people from heart disease and diabetes, according to an article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers analyzed data from an analysis of 330 Yup’ik Eskimos in southwest Alaska, 70% of whom were overweight or obese. As expected, the researchers found that in participants with low blood levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) obesity strongly increased both blood triglycerides and C-reactive protein (CRP). Elevated levels of triglycerides and CRP increase the risk of heart disease and, possibly, diabetes.
“These results mimic those found in populations living in the Lower 48 who have similarly low blood levels of EPA and DHA,” notes senior author Alan Kristal, Dr. P.H. “However, the new finding was that obesity did not increase these risk factors among study participants with high blood levels of omega-3 fats.”
“Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons,” Dr. Makhoul adds. “It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup’ik Eskios from some of the harmful effects of obesity.”
While Yup’ik Eskimos have overweight/obesity levels similar to those in the U.S. overall, their prevalence of type 2 diabetes is significantly lower — 3.3 percent versus 7.7 percent.
“While genetic, lifestyle and dietary factors may account for this difference,” Dr. Makhoul explains, “it is reasonable to ask, based on our findings, whether the lower prevalence of diabetes in this population might be attributed, at least in part, to their high consumption of omega-3-rich fish.”
EJCN – March 23;Epub.