Type 1 diabetes can eventually lead to eye damage and if this is not discovered in time it may cause blurry or impaired vision. According to a new study that is published in Diabetes, supplementing with omega-3 for six months can regenerate damaged corneal nerves, so the scientists believe that eating more oily fish or taking a fish oil supplement may represent a promising add-on to existing therapies.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition that occurs when the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are permanently damaged. As a result, cells lose their ability to take up glucose and glucose is excreted in the urine. The early signs of type 1 diabetes are fatigue, great thirst, and frequent urination. Diabetes is also linked to more serious complications that are insidious. Sooner or later, around 50 per cent of diabetics develop something called distal symmetrical polyneuropathy (DSP) that can cause neuropathic pain, poor circulation, and increased mortality. Early stages of DSP are linked to loss of the small nerve fibers in the cornea, and it is believed that the loss amounts to approximately 0.8 percent annually.
Currently, the only way to delay this loss of nerve fibers is through intense blood sugar control, which is done by means of insulin and diet. A group of scientists from Australia and New Zealand, however, has found that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids seems to be a promising treatment.
Supplements of EPA and DHA regenerate damaged nerve fibers in the cornea
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, play an important role in normal development of eyes and nerves and they also contribute to the maintenance of normal vision. It was therefore relevant to look at how omega-3 fatty acids could affect the vision of diabetics. The new study included 43 type 1 diabetics who were split in two groups. For 180 days, one group took an omega-3 supplement with 1,080 mg of EPA and 720 mg of DHA. The other group was given an olive oil placebo for the same number of days. At the end of the study, the scientists could see that the omega-3 group experienced significant improvement in terms of regenerated nerve fibers in the cornea, compared with the placebo group.
The scientists specifically noted that in the omega-3-supplemented diabetics, the nerve fibers increased in length and density. In contrast, the exact same parameters deteriorated in the placebo group.
Based on their findings, the researchers believe that the positive effect of the omega-3 fatty acids is linked to their anti-inflammatory properties and other beneficial effects. The study, which is published in Diabetes, supports earlier studies of humans and animals.
Fish oil supplements and finding the right dose
As seen in the study, the people in the active treatment group took approximately 1,000 mg of EPA and 700 mg of DHA. When looking for suited supplements, check the label so you can find a similar dose. Fish oil that is based on free fatty acids has faster and better absorption. Always choose a product that is within the threshold levels for peroxide value and environmental toxins.
Laura E Downie, et al. Investigating the neuroprotective effect of oral omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in type 1 diabetes (Nproofs1): a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Diabetes 2021
Tingmin Koe. EPA, DHA supplementation promotes corneal nerve regeneration in type 1 diabetes patients – 180-days RCT. www.NUTRAingredients.com 2021
Diabetisk øjensygdom (Retinopati) (netdoktor.dk)
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