Adults with type 2 diabetes who eat a Mediterranean diet and at least two servings of oily fish per week may reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy, according to an observational study from Spain. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading global cause of visual impairment. As the incidence of type 2 diabetes gradually increases, more individuals will suffer from these complications, which, if not managed properly, can lead to permanent eye damage.
Examples of omega-3 fatty acid supplements are krill oil and fish oil.
The researchers analyzed data on people participating in a larger randomized study called PREDIMED, which ran from 2003-2009 in Spain and where participants ate a diet with extra virgin olive oil or nuts compared to a regular comparison diet.
Approximately 3,600 adults aged 55-80 who participated in PREDIMED had type 2 diabetes and the analysis focused on them. Similar to a recent omega-3 fatty acid Swedish study.
Based on food frequency questionnaires, the researchers determined that three-quarters of these participants had achieved the goal of consuming 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day, which can be achieved by eating fish twice a week, preferably oily fish such as salmon.
During a six-year follow-up period, 69 new cases of vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy were discovered. People who get enough omega-3 fatty acids when the study began had a 48 percent lower risk of getting this diagnosis during the study than others, according to the results published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
– It is difficult to say whether the results would have been the same with omega-3 supplements, said the lead author of the report, Aleix Sala-Vila, a researcher with CIBERObn (Spanish Biomedical Research Center in Physiopathology, Obesity and Nutrition) in Madrid. But there have been encouraging results from several research groups studying the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on all people, not just those with diabetes, he said. The incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing, and therefore more individuals will suffer from diabetic complications which, if not managed properly, can lead to permanent eye damage. People should be aware that when it comes to diet, even small changes in the right direction can lead to significant benefits. Incorporating fish into your diet can be a way to live longer and better, and is also good for the heart and brain. Salmon, shrimp and light canned tuna are good choices with low mercury content, he said.
– Dietary changes are a cornerstone in diabetes care, writes Dr Michael Larsen of Rigshospitalet-Glostrup and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark in a comment accompanying the study. It seems to be a safe bet now to let their food intake include gifts from our seas and forests, while we consider how they can be protected for future generations and wait for large and ambitious studies of the effects of diet on diabetic retinopathy, writes Larsen.
Omega-3 fatty acids supplementing with fish oil or krill oil needs more research, suggests Alfred Lundin M.D, Ph. D., krillolja.se. Omega-3 is an essential nutrient.