The Diabetes and Heart Connection

Understanding the connection could save your life

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes.[1]

Understanding the connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease is important, because you can lower the risk of having a heart attack or ischemic stroke by following a healthy lifestyle plan which includes omega-3 fatty acids.

Here are the many ways that omega-3s can protect your heart:

Omega-3’S Can Decrease Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular Disease is one of the major causes of death in the world. The American Heart Association states, “Omega-3 fatty acids with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) & DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of – or who have – cardiovascular disease.” [2] Numerous studies have shown that omega 3 consumption can significantly reduce this incidence.

Reducing Triglycerides

An analysis of 18 randomized, controlled studies examining the effect of omega 3 fish oil supplementation on patients with type 2 diabetes, found that fish oil lowered triglyceride levels by 31 mg/dl, decreasing their risk for development of cardiovascular disease.[3]

Another analysis of 18 randomized controlled studies, showed patients supplementing with fish oil/omega 3 had 25% lower triglyceride levels, 36% lower LDL-cholesterol levels, and 39.7% lower LDL-triacylglycerol levels.[4] A 16 year long study including approximately 5,000 women with type 2 diabetes, found that those with a high consumption of fish oil/omega 3 had a significantly lower incidence of coronary heart disease and a significantly lower total mortality.[5] Therefore, people that are insulin resistant or have type 2 diabetes should include consumption of omega 3’s as a part of their daily regimen as a means of cardio protection.[6]

The reduction in triglyceride levels by omega 3 fatty acids is also attributed to a decrease in the production of very-low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are responsible for the transport of triglycerides, phospholipids, and cholesterol.[7][8] One study found that daily supplementation with fish oil resulted in a 66% reduction in triglyceride levels and a 78% reduction in LDL levels.[9]

Omega-3 as an Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation has been reported as being responsible for numerous diseases including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and several others.[10] Omega 3 supplementation can reduce serum levels of markers of inflammation.[11] DHA supplementation has also been shown to reduce inflammation as measured by decreased levels of other markers of inflammation.[12]

Ischemic Stroke Improvements

Approximately 795,000 Americans suffer from a new or recurrent stroke each year and more than 143,000 of those result in death.[13] It is well documented that increased fish consumption is correlated with a reduced risk in ischemic stroke and stroke mortality.[14] Both women and men that consume omega 3 fatty acids significantly reduce their risk of ischemic stroke.[15] The protective effect of omega 3 fatty acids are due, in part, to its ability to inhibit platelet aggregation[16] as well as a reduce whole blood viscosity.[17]


The anti-inflammatory effects of omega 3 fatty acids are thought to protect against atherosclerosis. Several studies have shown that daily supplementation with as little as 1 gram of EPA and DHA can significantly decrease the risk of developing atherosclerosis.[18] In addition to reducing the risk of developing atherosclerosis, omega 3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, also slow the progression of the disease.[19]

Omega-3’s Can Reduce Hypertension (High blood pressure)

Daily supplementation with 2-3 grams or more of fish oil has been shown to decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.[20] Analysis of 90 randomized studies concluded that supplementation with more than 2 grams of fish oil daily results in a reduction of systolic blood pressure by 2.1 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.6 mmHg.[21]

NOTE: Consult your doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.

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  3. Farmer, A; V Montori, S Dinneen, C Clar (2001). “Fish oil in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus”. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Online) (3): CD003205. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003205. ISSN 1469-493X.
  4. Hartweg, J; A J Farmer, R Perera, R R Holman, H A W Neil (2007-08). “Meta-analysis of the effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on lipoproteins and other emerging lipid cardiovascular risk markers in patients with type 2 diabetes”. Diabetologia 50 (8): 1593-1602. doi:10.1007/s00125-007-0695-z. ISSN 0012-186X.
  5. Hu, Frank B; Eunyoung Cho, Kathryn M Rexrode, Christine M Albert, JoAnn E Manson (2003-04-15). “Fish and long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake and risk of coronary heart disease and total mortality in diabetic women”. Circulation 107 (14): 1852- 1857. doi:10.1161/01.CIR.0000062644.42133.5F. ISSN 1524- 4539.
  6. Nettleton, Joyce A; Robert Katz (2005-03). “n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in type 2 diabetes: a review”. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 105 (3): 428-440. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2004.11.029. ISSN 0002-8223.
  7. Harris, W S; W E Connor, D R Illingworth, D W Rothrock, D M Foster (1990-09). “Effects of fish oil on VLDL triglyceride kinetics in humans”. Journal of Lipid Research 31 (9): 1549-1558. ISSN 0022-2275.
  8. Nestel, P J; W E Connor, M F Reardon, S Connor, S Wong, R Boston (1984-07). “Suppression by diets rich in fish oil of very low density lipoprotein production in man”. The Journal of Clinical Investigation 74 (1): 82-89. doi:10.1172/JCI111422. ISSN 0021-9738.
  9. Zaciragic A, Huskic J, Hadzovic-Dzuvo A, Valjevac A, Avdagic N, Mulabegovic N (November 2007). “Serum C-reactive protein concentration and measures of adiposity in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus”. Bosn J Basic Med Sci 7 (4): 322-7. PMID 18039190.
  10. 25.0 25.1 Phillips T, Childs AC, Dreon DM, Phinney S, Leeuwenburgh C (December 2003). “A dietary supplement attenuates IL- 6 and CRP after eccentric exercise in untrained males”. Med Sci Sports Exerc 35 (12): 2032-7.
  11. Caughey, G E; E Mantzioris, R A Gibson, L G Cleland, M J James (1996-01). “The effect on human tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 1 beta production of diets enriched in n-3 fatty acids from vegetable oil or fish oil”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 63 (1): 116- 122. ISSN 0002-9165.
  12. 25.0 25.1 Phillips T, Childs AC, Dreon DM, Phinney S, Leeuwenburgh C (December 2003). “A dietary supplement attenuates IL-6 and CRP after eccentric exercise in untrained males”. Med Sci Sports Exerc 35 (12): 2032–7. doi:10.1249/01.MSS.0000099112.32342.10. PMID 14652498.
  13. Stoll, A L; W E Severus, M P Freeman, S Rueter, H A Zboyan, E Diamond, K K Cress, L B Marangell (1999-05). “Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial”. Archives of General Psychiatry 56 (5): 407-412. ISSN 0003-990X.
  14. Zhang, J; S Sasaki, K Amano, H Kesteloot (1999-05). “Fish consumption and mortality from all causes, ischemic heart disease, and stroke: an ecological study”. Preventive Medicine 28 (5): 520-529. doi:10.1006/pmed.1998.0472. ISSN 0091-7435.
  15. Iso, H; K M Rexrode, M J Stampfer, J E Manson, G A Colditz, F E Speizer, C H Hennekens, W C Willett (2001-01-17). “Intake of fish and omega-3 fatty acids and risk of stroke in women”. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 285 (3): 304- 312. ISSN 0098-7484.
  16. Dyerberg, J; H O Bang, E Stoffersen, S Moncada, J R Vane (1978-07-15). “Eicosapentaenoic acid and prevention of thrombosis and atherosclerosis?”. Lancet 2 (8081): 117-119. ISSN 0140-6736.
  17. Terano, T; A Hirai, T Hamazaki, S Kobayashi, T Fujita, Y Tamura, A Kumagai (1983-03). “Effect of oral administration of highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid on platelet function, blood viscosity and red cell deformability in healthy human subjects”. Atherosclerosis 46 (3): 321-331. ISSN 0021-9150.
  18. Hino, Asuka; Hisashi Adachi, Koji Toyomasu, Noriko Yoshida, Mika Enomoto, Akiko Hiratsuka, Yuji Hirai, Akira Satoh, Tsutomu Imaizumi (2004-09). “Very long chain N-3 fatty acids intake and carotid atherosclerosis: an epidemiological study evaluated by ultrasonography”. Atherosclerosis 176 (1): 145-149. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2004.04.020. ISSN 0021-9150.
  19. Erkkilä, Arja T; Nirupa R Matthan, David M Herrington, Alice H Lichtenstein (2006-12). “Higher plasma docosahexaenoic acid is associated with reduced progression of coronary atherosclerosis in women with CAD”. Journal of Lipid Research 47 (12): 2814- 2819. doi:10.1194/jlr.P600005-JLR200. ISSN 0022-2275.
  20. Howe, P R (1997-09-20). “Dietary fats and hypertension. Focus on fish oil”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 827: 339-352. ISSN 0077-8923.
  21. Geleijnse, Johanna M; Erik J Giltay, Diederick E Grobbee, Adrianus R T Donders, Frans J Kok (2002-08). “Blood pressure response to fish oil supplementation: metaregression analysis of randomized trials”. Journal of Hypertension 20 (8): 1493-1499. ISSN 0263-6352.