A study reported in the Journal of Nutrition indicates that the effects of the metabolic syndrome, a significant risk fact for developing type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, is reduced by adding omega-3 fatty acids to a high complex carbohydrate, low fat diet.  In particular, the supplements improve the blood lipid (fat) levels.


“Fish oil supplements correct many metabolic alterations associated with insulin resistance, including reduced postprandial plasma triglyceride concentration” stated the researchers, led by Jose Lopez-Miranda from the University of Cordoba, Spain.


Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that frequently include high blood pressure, obesity, high levels of blood sugar levels and high fat levels.


It often happens prior to the development of type II diabetes, and is also strongly linked to an increased risk of major health problems such as heart disease and stroke.


Metabolic syndrome’s origins are not known, but they are believed to be linked to genetic and environmental factors – including poor diet.


One way to increase the overall health – and reduce the risks – of people with metabolic syndrome, has been to eat a diet low in saturated fat and high in complex carbohydrates. However, previous research has suggested that this diet does not help to reduce high levels of blood lipids – with some studies observing such a diet could even be raising blood lipid levels.


The new study involved 117 patients with metabolic syndrome.  It examined the effects of four different diet combinations on blood lipid metabolism.


In keeping with previous findings and recommendations, the researchers found that a low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diet had “several detrimental effects”, including significantly increasing total triglyceride levels, and triglyceride rich lipoprotein cholesterol levels.


Consumption of the same diet supplemented with omega-3 was found to have no effects on blood lipid levels.  The researchers observed that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, or a low-fat diet rich in complex carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids, resulted in lower circulating blood lipid levels than a diet rich in high saturated fats or a diet low in fats and high in complex carbohydrates.


The data from the study indicate there is a  place for higher omega-3 intake in people with metabolic syndrome, and substantiates the credibility of earlier research that suggests monounsaturated fatty acids can have a positive effect on blood lipid levels.


“The long-term effect of the low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diet, pre vs. post intervention phases, showed several beneficial effects of long chain omega-3 PUFA supplementation,” stated the researchers.


“Our data suggest that long-term intake of an isocaloric, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet supplemented with long chain omega-3 … have beneficial effects on postprandial lipoprotein response in patients with metabolic syndrome.”



The Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.3945/jn.109.120816

“A Low-Fat, High-Complex Carbohydrate Diet Supplemented with Long-Chain (n-3) Fatty Acids Alters the Postprandial Lipoprotein Profile in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome”
Authors: Y. Jimenez-Gomez, C. Marin, P. Perez-Martinez, et al