Monday, January 12, 2015

New role of Omega-3 fatty acids-A diabetic cure?

Omega-3 acids like DHA are known to play a vital role in preventing heart ailments and other diseases but it was never implicated in tackling the metabolic syndrome that affects almost 20% of the world population. Essential fatty acids or better known as EFA are present in many foods but fish is supposed to be top source and those predominantly eating fish are supposed to be least suffering from heart disease. Whether it is alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the short chain EFA or Docosahexaenoic(DHA), the long chain polyunsaturated version (PUFA), humans cannot synthesise them and hence must be ingested through the diet. While plant sources like flax seed, hemp seed, soybean, rapeseed, chia seed, leafy vegetables, walnut etc are good sources of LA or ALA, only fish and some sea foods can provide PUFA. The efficiency of converting short chain EFA into more biologically active PUFA is rather low in humans and hence the push for consuming fish regularly for good health. Recent reports implicating a role for DHA in preventing or curing diabetes, found in rat experiments, probably may be path breaking in terms of its impact on human beings, if proved true. Here is a take on this new development coming from one of the reputed universities in the US. 

"Research carried out at the University of California (UC), Davis and the University of Barcelona has uncovered an enzyme inhibitor found to prevent and reverse the effects of diabetes in obese mice. In addition to discovering a potential form of treatment for the disease, scientists say the study has shone new light on healthy properties of fatty acids. The researchers have shown the enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) to be capable of reducing the symptoms of diabetes in mice by stabilizing metabolites in an omega-3 acid called DHA.  Previously observed in the lab at UC Davis, the researchers say that the drug they are working on has either reduced or reversed diabetes-related ailments such as renal failure, hypertension, diabetic pain, hardening of the arteries and heart failure. Now research conducted by Joan Clària, an associate professor at the Barcelona School of Medicine, takes things a little further. She reported the discovery that for mice that happen to have higher levels of certain fatty acids, the drug actually provided a cure for the disease. "Our previous studies show the drug we are working on will reduce the symptoms of diabetes in mice by itself," says Dr. Bruce Hammock, who runs the Hammock Laboratory of Pesticide Biotechnology at UC Davis. "But the excitement about Joan Clària's work is that if the mice have a genetically increased level of omega-3 fatty acids, the drug offers prevention or cure in mice." Another UC Davis researcher, who is not involved in this study, says that the apparent link between stabilizing the metabolites in DHA and curing the symptoms of diabetes increases understanding of the impacts of omega-3 fatty acids on well being. "This exciting research brings mechanistic detail to understanding how omega-3 fatty acids in the diet exert important health effects," said J. Bruce German, director of the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute, Department of Food Science and Technology."

If these findings are reproduced with human trials further development may be necessary before an appropriate drug is formulated. The finding that those mice having high levels of omega-3 fatty acids genetically are less vulnerable to diabetes or it can be cured if the new drug is administered is very encouraging. World wide people suffering from Type II diabetes are depending on synthetic drugs to overcome insufficient insulin production or insulin insensitivity and the new approach may be more rewarding for them as it uses the natural enzymes rather than chemical drugs. Progressive deterioration in diabetic people is caused by the ineffectiveness of any drug over a long period of use, ultimately ending up with direct insulin shots to control blood sugar. Hopefully this will not happen with this new drug proposed by the above innovators.


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