Fish Fends Off Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes risk reduced by eating fish

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When it comes to preventing diabetes, your diet is extremely important. Some foods are high in unhealthy fats and can increase your risk of the disease. Other foods, like fish, may reduce your risk.

Eating fish may lower your blood sugar and risk of type 2 diabetes.

"Eat fish to protect against diabetes."

Mercedes Sotos Prieto, of the University of Valencia and lead author of the study, explains that people in Mediterranean countries are no longer eating the foods that made up their traditional diets. In recent decades, people have started eating more saturated fats, primarily from red meats and industrial baking. Prieto says these eating habits are a worrying trend.

With that observation in mind, Prieto and colleagues looked at how certain diets affected people's risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Through studying 340 men and 605 women from the Valencia region of Spain, the researchers found that this population eats a large amount of both red meat and fish. While eating lots of red meat was associated with more weight gain and obesity, eating lots of fish was associated with lower rates of diabetes and lower blood sugar levels.

"Eating fish is excellent for Omega 3 fish oils," says Mark Bans, D.C. of Bans Health and Wellness in Austin, Texas. "However these days, as with any foods we eat, we always have to ask where it came from and how it was processed. Deep ocean water fish is the best and the healthiest. There are questions to be asked about farm raised fish in regards to sanitation, living environment, chemicals, antibiotics, etc. It is the same for Omega 3 fish oils that one might buy. You need to make sure they are from a reputable source, they are without fillers, and the oils used are not rancid."

Eating large amounts of red meat is linked to a greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a slightly shorter lifespan.

On average, the study's participants ate red meat about once a day, which is much higher than the recommended amount. Men ate more red and cured meats than women. Compared to men, women ate more white meat, especially chicken and turkey.

While men and women ate about the same amount of fish, women generally had healthier dietary patterns than men.

Even though this study suggests that fish may lower the risk of diabetes, it does not explain what causes that reduced risk. Nonetheless, past studies have also shown that fish, especially oily fish, is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

According to the authors, there have been various explanations for this reduced risk. One strong hypothesis is that omega-3s from fish can improve sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

"It is important to understand the dietary patterns of the Spanish population in order to learn whether dietary habits are changing," says Sotos Prieto. "We ought to establish dietary intervention programs so that we do not stray from the Mediterranean diet. In other words, such a diet involves decreasing the amount of red meat that we at and maintaing equal levels of fish consumption."

Although Sotos Prieto is speaking about the Spanish population, much of the same could be said for those living in the US, where the consumption of red meats and processed foods is one of the main contributors to the exploding rates of diabetes.

The study is published in the journal Nutrición Hospitalaria

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 11, 2011
Last Updated:
November 16, 2011