Fish oil could help pre­vent di­a­betes


Fresh fish oil could one day be used to pre­vent ba­bies from be­com­ing over­weight and de­vel­op­ing di­a­betes later in life.

An Auck­land Univer­sity study has found the oil, given to over­weight preg­nant rats, re­duced the risk of their off­spring de­vel­op­ing the dis­ease.

But for now, re­searcher Dr Ben Al­bert cau­tions against preg­nant women tak­ing fish oil sup­ple­ments on the ba­sis of his find­ing.

‘‘At this stage we do not rec­om­mend that preg­nant women take fish oil for their ba­bies’ health for two rea­sons,’’ Al­bert said.

‘‘First, our find­ings need con­fir­ma­tion in hu­man stud­ies.

‘‘Sec­ond, you can’t know if the sup­ple­ments you buy are fresh or not, and we don’t yet know the safe level of ox­i­di­s­a­tion for fish oil in preg­nancy.’’

In the first of his team’s fish oil stud­ies, pub­lished in 2015, the re­searchers tested 36 brands of fish oil sup­ple­ments cap­sules.

Most of them were ox­i­dised - on their way to be­com­ing ran­cid - be­yond in­ter­na­tional rec­om­mended lev­els.

The de­te­ri­o­ra­tion had noth­ing to do with best-be­fore date, price, or the coun­try they came from.

‘‘Our ad­vice would be, if you want more omega 3 fats, eat oily fish,’’ Al­bert said.

In the lat­est ex­per­i­ment, preg­nant rats were fed ei­ther a high­fat diet to make them over­weight, or a stan­dard diet, and half from each group were also given fresh fish oil.

In the off­spring of the high-fat group, the fish oil treat­ment im­proved the way in­sulin works, which is pro­tec­tive against di­a­betes.

Later this year, Al­bert will lead a clin­i­cal trial of fish oil sup­ple­ments in over­weight preg­nant women to see if the sup­ple­ments can in­deed re­duce the risk of their ba­bies be­com­ing over­weight and of de­vel­op­ing di­a­betes in later life.

Chil­dren of over­weight women have nearly twice the risk of de­vel­op­ing prob­lems like di­a­betes later in life, and at least three in 10 preg­nant women in New Zealand are over­weight.

More than 240,000 New Zealan­ders have been di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes (mostly type 2). It is thought there are an­other 100,000 peo­ple who have it but don’t know.

Up to one in five New Zealand women cur­rently take fish oil sup­ple­ments dur­ing preg­nancy, ac­cord­ing to lat­est es­ti­mates.


Fresh fish oil re­duced the risk of baby rats de­vel­op­ing di­a­betes.

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