DHA/EPA Supplementation Improves Vascular Functioning following a Fatty Meal in Diabetics

March 17, 2010


Effects of n-3 Fatty Acids on Macro- and Microvascular Function in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Stirban et al., Am. J. Clinical Nutrition , 91 : 808 – 813 , 2010
Diabetes Center, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany and Division of Endocrinology, The Mount Sinai Medical Ctr., New York, NY


The flow of blood through a vessel is associated with vessel dilatation and the process of expanding or stretching of the vessel. Such vascular functioning can be monitored via FMD (flow-mediated dilatation) - a technique using ultrasound measurements along the arm to evaluate vascular healthiness. Unhealthy vascular functioning or so-called ‘endothelial dysfunction’ is known to precede the onset of atherosclerosis . Diabetics are at greater risk for this phenomenon.

In the present study, the researchers measured FMD following a fatty meal in diabetic subjects who had received a ‘placebo’ supplement lacking DHA/EPA for 6 weeks or a daily supplement over that period containing 2 gms DHA/EPA . The post-meal or so-called ‘postprandial’ measurements of FMD decreased by 38 % at 4 hours following the meal in those subjects receiving the placebo but by a much lesser amount (only 13 %) in those receiving the omega-3 supplementation. That is, the DHA/EPA supplement significantly reduced the decrease in vascular functioning following the fatty meal. The authors conclude that DHA/EPA supplementation appears to provide a protective vascular effect to support healthier vascular functioning . This is particularly noted in the few hours following the consumption of a fatty meal.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

The present findings indicate yet another mechanism by which DHA/EPA may protect against cardiovascular disease and serious cardiac events independent of any blood cholesterol-lowering. In the future , such FMD measurements as performed herein may become part of a more aggressive health care system which monitors for unhealthy vascular functioning in individuals via such screening procedures. Repeat measurements of FMD via ultrasound following a period of supplementation with DHA/EPA may aid in the clinical care of those who have been identified as being at particular risk.

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