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Omega-3s and Heart Health

A recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care has found that low doses of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosaheaxaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) reduced the risk of heart arrhythmia-related events in diabetic patients who had previously suffered a heart attack.

1,014 diabetic patients, aged 60 to 80 years old, were randomized into four groups and consumed margarine that contained either 223 mg EPA and 149 mg DHA, 1.9 g ALA, both EPA/DHA and ALA, or no omega-3 fatty acids every day for 40 months. The group that consumed the margarine with EPA/DHA and ALA experienced an 84 percent lower risk of arrhythmia-related events and a 72 percent lower risk of arrhythmia-related events and fatal coronary events when compared to the group consuming the plain margarine. Heart arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat, and can lead to cardiac arrest.

The authors of the study suggest a few possible reasons why these omega-3s might be helpful in diabetics with heart disease. One, they might play a role in regulating insulin sensitivity, an important factor in diabetes. Two, they may help to lower blood sugar levels. And three, their anti-inflammatory properties may help to reverse insulin resistance. All these factors can lead to heart disease if unaddressed.

More studies will be done to determine the precise role each omega-3 plays in heart arrhythmia and heart disease, but this study adds to the thousands of studies illustrating the heart-healthy benefits of omega-3 oils.

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