Oct 4th, 2010 by sandalwood
More and more often these days we hear about the need to incorporate Omega-3’s into our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are recognized as being helpful agents in the treatment of many chronic diseases and health conditions, including type-2 diabetes and the complications that may result from poorly controlled blood sugar levels, especially heart disease. Recent research, discussed below, provides evidence of the possible benefits of omega-3’s.
But what we really need to know about omega-3 fats is: “How do we get them onto a diabetic menu, what foods must be included in the diabetic food list to get the dramatic benefits that they apparently offer for the person with diabetes?” That is the question we must answer with this article which deals specifically with omega-3’s. For information on fats and the diet in general see Dietary Fats – Part One
First, about omega-3 fatty acids
In a Harvard School of Public Health newsletter of today’s date, October 1, 2010, omega-3 fatty acids are described as “polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for health that must be obtained from food, they cannot be made by the human body.” That does not tell us a lot unless we already have an understanding of the various types of dietary fat. But the newsletter continues with important information that can be mentioned later in this piece.
Many medical practitioners and research scientists believe that a wide range of health conditions can benefit from omega-3’s, especially diseases associated with inflammation, and it appears that type-2 diabetes is one of them, as discussed below. Other disease conditions, in addition to diabetes, include rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, pms, — and there are others.
Dietary fat is an essential nutrient required by all human beings to maintain a state of good health. Most people know that it is sensible to avoid eating too much fat and most people have heard that there are good fats and bad fats although fewer people are sure which is which.
Dietary fats are categorized under four titles — saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. The good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and the bad fats are saturated and trans fats. We need to know the food sources that deliver the fats, both good and bad, to be able to make sensible choices when constructing a diabetic food list from which to prepare recipes for the daily diabetic menu. The addition to the weekly diet of just a few good food sources in relatively small amounts can have a positive affect on blood sugar levels.
Food sources of Omega-3’s
Omega-3 fats can be obtained from fish or fish oil supplements or from plant sources or the oils of those plants.
1. Fish sources: fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, fish that live in cold waters are excellent sources and other fish and scallops provide them in lesser amounts.
2. Plant sources: flaxseeds and walnuts are excellent sources and they are found in lesser concentrations in soybeans, and some other vegetables.
How much is needed?
The recommended dietary intake according to the FDA is 3 grams per day from fish or plants but 2 grams per day from their oils. Those amounts should not be exceeded. Another recommendation by a group sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is that people consume at least 2% of their total daily calories as omega-3 fats.
For example, a person following a diet of 2000 calories per day should eat enough omega-3-rich foods to provide at least 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. They don’t have to be eaten each day necessarily, a meal of fish twice a week and some ground flax seed in a breakfast cereal could probably be sufficient.
Four ounces of salmon contains 1.5 grams of omega 3 fats and two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds contain 3.5 grams of omega-3 fats. Vegetarians who don’t eat fish may wish to substitute fish oil for fish or just rely on plant sources. Flaxseeds can be purchased as seeds or in the ground up form and the seeds can also be ground up satisfactorily in the home kitchen with a coffee grinder. See next, the calories supplied by salmon, walnuts and ground flaxseed.
Fish sources provide more fat calories
It should be noted, especially for anyone wishing to lose weight, that fish and walnuts provide more fats than flaxseed. For instance a 4 ounce piece of Chinook salmon contains over 260 calories and 2 ounces (about 14) walnuts provide about 370 calories, whereas 2 tablespoons of flaxseed has about 75 calories. Based on the values obtained from NutritionData.com.
An interesting podcast that provides a good summary of the topic, titled “Omega-3 fatty acids – Get the heart-health benefits” and issued by the Mayo Clinic can be found at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/omega-3-fatty-acids/HB00096.
The podcast states that the best source is fatty fish, however, Dr. Julian Whitaker, described as America’s leading wellness doctor, in his book Guide to Natural Healing, published 1996 by Prima Publishing, offers a different opinion, at least on fish oils. On page 50 of my paperback copy, Dr. Whitaker states “Compared to fish oil, flax seed oil contains more than twice the amount of omega-3 oil”. I agree with that assertion after checking with Nutrition Data and WH Foods. Dr. Whitaker adds that flax oil may offer other benefits over fish oil.
For general good health, Dr. Whitaker makes the recommendation to eat a low-fat, high-complex-carbohydrate diet. And for the diabetic he recommends a high-complex-carbohydrate, high fiber diet – he also believes in supplementation.
New research provides hope for the diabetic
Type-2 diabetes is thought to be linked to inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s immune response to injury or infection.
When fat cells increase, as they do when a person acquires extra fat and gains weight, the fat tissues are then attacked by the body’s own disease fighting cells, called microphages, and this causes inflammation in adjoining cells. The inflammation leads to insulin resistance and insulin resistance can lead to type-2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that is critical in the process of absorption of glucose into the body’s cells.
A summary of recent research findings published September, 2010 in the journal “Cell” provided the results of a study using obese mice that can be related to human beings because mice are genetically similar to humans. It appears that as fat tissue accumulates in the body of both mice and humans it is attacked by the cells of the body’s own immune system, cells called microphages, and that cause significant inflammation in surrounding cells. As stated above, inflammation can lead to insulin resistance, a factor in type-2 diabetes.
According to one of the co-authors of the study, Saswata Talukdar, a post-doctoral fellow at University of California, San Diego, it is not well understood how omega-3 fatty acids provide the beneficial effects.
In studying the fat tissue of the mice that consumed omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil, it was found that the omega-3’s blocked the inflammation process, improved insulin sensitivity and lowered the higher than normal blood sugar levels. Other tests using a different routine confirmed the effectiveness of the omega 3-s in the diet.
But a note of caution
The positive results obtained from the study using obese mice that are genetically similar to humans, they may not translate to human beings. Research with animals often fails to fails to apply to human beings.
Inflammation plays a role in many diseases
A University of Berkeley news letter of 2008 it was mentioned that the theory that inflammation is associated with some diseases is not new, many years ago, inflammation was implicated in cancer. Researchers now believe that low-grade inflammation is associated with diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and other diseases and may even be the cause of most chronic diseases.
All persons with diabetes must be under the care and supervision of a doctor. But other than the supervision and advice provided by the health care team, much of the control and management of the higher than normal blood sugar levels that occur in diabetes have to be the responsibility of the individual diabetic.
Whether to add the omega-3 fatty acids to the diabetic food list and their incorporation into favorite diabetic menu choices is mainly a personal matter but that could be discussed with a health care team’s dietitian.
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