Omega 3 Oils and Diabetes, and What are the Causes of Diabetes
There are two kinds of diabetes. Omega 3 oils are likely to be involved in both types of diabetes. The less common type of diabetes is call Type I (juvenile-onset) diabetes. It is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. This type of diabetes accounts for only one tenth of all diabetes cases, and is caused by the destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. These cells are called beta cells and in diabetes I they have been destroyed by the immune system. You could conjecture that essential fatty acid deficiencies might be involved in this condition, since such an event in the body is an auto immune event and auto immune diseases are inflammatory diseases which, in turn, are often caused by an essential fatty acid imbalance - an imbalance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils.. Type I diabetes symptoms require the administration of insulin to the body.
Ninety percent of diabetes cases are not of type I, rather, they are of type II diabetes. Type II Diabetes, it turns out, is a disease caused by compromised cellular membranes. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in the body’s cell membranes (caused by a deficiency of omega 3 oils in the diet) results in a loss in fluidity of the membranes. This is related to “insulin resistance” of cells. " Insulin resistance" of cells is the defining characteristic or type II diabetes which is usually seen only in middle-aged or older people. In type II diabetes the body produces insulin, but the insulin receptors on the cells do not work properly. As a result, high levels of blood sugar and insulin will be observed simultaneously in the blood stream of persons with this disease, (by contrast, in persons suffering from type I diabetes while high levels of sugar are observed, low to non-existent levels of insulin are observed in the blood).
What Happens in the Body With Diabetes
In Type II diabetes, insulin is produced in the normal manner by the pancreas when there is an increase in blood sugar levels in your body. Ordinarily, insulin which is released into the blood stream is received by insulin receptors on the cell membranes. In this way insulin serves as a chemical messenger to the cells. The insulin communicates to the cells that blood sugar levels have risen so that they need to start taking in and storing these sugars. If you have type II diabetes, however, the insulin receptors on the cell membranes apparently are not functioning (or perhaps they are simply not present in adequate numbers). In type II diabetes, when sugar enters the blood steam insulin levels soar as the pancreas responds to increasing sugar levels but the cells do not respond by taking up the sugar since there are insufficient numbers of receptors on the membranes.
This whole chain of events is most taxing upon the pancreas and the kidneys. The pancreas is stressed as it will make more and more insulin as it attempts to take care of the excess sugar which is racing around the body. The kidneys are overburdened because they will end up excreting this sugar eventually. Meanwhile, the extraordinary amounts of sugar that is flooding the blood stream ends up randomly attaching to cell membrane proteins here and there. The body’s immune system normally uses sugar sequences which are attached to cell membrane proteins to identify which cells are part of the body, and which are invaders. When sugars randomly attach themselves to the body’s cell membranes, bogus sugar sequences form and this confuses the immune system. What is the end result of this? Auto immune damage. The immune system mistakes the body’s own cells for invaders since they cannot be identified properly anymore.
Diabetes and Its Health Effects
Diabetes is associated with increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, loss of nerve function and loss of limbs due to blood flow restrictions. These other conditions are also related to the problem of omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in the tissues of these systems.
Both type II diabetes, and the associated conditions listed above result from, and are associated with essential fatty acid imbalances and deficiencies. See “What is Syndrome X and How Does Omega-3 Prevent It?" the next article in this series for a more in-depth look at the relationship between diabetes, essential fatty acids and good health.
Murray, T. N.D. and Jade Beutler, R.R.T., R.C.P.,(1996). Understanding Fats & Oils, Progressive Health Publishing, Encinitas, CA.
Gordon, Garry, M.D., D.O., M.D.(H.), Herb Joiner-Bey, N.D.(2004).The Omega-3 Miracle. Freedom Press, Topanga, CA