Fish oil could slow nerve damage from diabetes
Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, affects about 50 percent of people living with diabetes, and the only known treatment is close control of blood sugar levels. Now, however, research on mice, published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, suggests that omega-3 fish oil may actually be able to restore damaged nerves.
To conduct their study, researchers at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City fed diabetic mice a high-fat diet and treated them with daily injections of resolvin (a type of omega-3 fatty acid) or they were given a high-fat diet in which half the fat came from fish oil. The results were compared to healthy, non-diabetic mice.
The team found that the untreated diabetic mice had lost their sense of touch in their paws, which corresponded to fewer nerves in the paw's skin and slower transmission of signals along the nerves. They also saw a decline in the nerves in the eyes of the untreated diabetic mice. The dietary fish oil and resolvin did not lower glucose levels in the mice, but they improved nerve health in terms of density and sensory signal transmission, The researchers even observed that the resolvin stimulated nerve cells to grow.
Next steps for the team include more animal studies to determine how fish oil treatment may reverse some of the harmful effects of diabetes on nerves even after long periods of uncontrolled diabetes.