Increasing EPA and DHA Concentrations in Blood to Modify Diabetes Risk
Fats are carried in the blood in many forms (chylomicrons, lipoproteins, etc). The enzyme, lipoprotein lipase, found in blood vessels, muscle and fat cells releases free fatty acids, also known as nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA), which serve as a fuel source. NEFA can be chronically elevated and have pathological consequences in individuals who are obese or diabetic. Elevated NEFA are an independent risk factor for sudden death.
A new study confirms NEFA are a marker of type 2 diabetes. More importantly, increasing omega-3 fatty acid status, i.e. eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acid concentrations in blood, may help protect against diabetes. Steffen and colleagues measured fasting NEFA concentrations from 5,697 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) over an average period of 11.4y. They observed significant differences in outcomes between those in the low (<75 percentile) and high (≥75 percentile).
The low and high group mean n-3 fatty acid phospholipid concentrations were 3.9% and 7.5%, respectively. The benefit seen in the high group is consistent with recommendations by Harris who characterized a low-risk profile as a red blood cell omega-3 index > 8%. Generally, most people have an omega-3 index of 3-5% unless they supplement with EPA+DHA.
This new study provides more evidence that EPA and DHA may play a role in healthy aging.
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