High consumption of foods naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps to reduce the risk of developing obesity-related illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, says a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Even among obese populations, omega-3s demonstrably keep at bay inflammation and blood triglyceride levels, two markers of obesity-related illness.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in collaboration with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, gathered data from a small Eskimo community living in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region of southwest Alaska. Seventy percent of the 330-person group was overweight or obese, which is comparable to statistics in the lower 48 states. Yet the Eskimo group as a whole consumes roughly 20 times more omega-3s on a regular basis than the average American does.
“Because Yup’ik Eskimos have a traditional diet that includes large amounts of fatty fish and have a prevalence of overweight or obesity that is similar to that of the general US population, this offered a unique opportunity to study whether omega-3 fats change the association between obesity and chronic disease risk,” said Zeina Makhoul, PhD, lead study author.
Upon analysis, researchers noted significantly higher blood levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two types of omega-3 fats, in the Eskimo group overall, as well as rates of type-2 diabetes that were less than half of what they are in the continental US. And even among obese individuals in the Eskimo group, blood triglyceride levels and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were comparable to those found in normal-weight people, indicating that omega-3s offer health protective benefits for both thin and overweight individuals.
“Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons,” said Makhoul. “It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup’ik Eskios from some of the harmful effects of obesity.”
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