Articles

Fish and Diabetes

September 11, 2019


“Fish and Diabetes” In the past two years, 6 separate
meta-analyses have been published on the relationship between
fish consumption and type 2 diabetes. The whole point of a meta-analysis,
though, is to compile together the best studies
done to date and see what the overall
balance of evidence shows. The fact that there are 6 different
ones published recently highlights how open
the question remains. One thread of consistency, though,
was that fish consumers in the United States tended to be
at greater risk for diabetes. If you include Europe too,
then fish eaters appeared to have a 38% increased risk
of diabetes. On a per serving basis,
that comes out to be about a 5% increase in risk for every
serving of fish one has per week. To put that into
perspective, a serving of red meat is associated
with a 19% increase in risk— but that’s per day. Just one serving
a week of fish is 5%, so a serving a day would be
like 35% increase in risk, worse than red meat. But why? Well, fish intake and omega-3 fats
may increase type 2 diabetes risk by increasing
blood sugar levels, as found in a review of the evidence
commissioned by the U.S. government. An increase in blood sugars
in diabetics given fish oil. Or it may be because the
omega-3s cause oxidative stress. A recent study found that the
insulin producing cells in the pancreas don’t appear to work
as well in people who eat two or more
servings of fish a week. Or it may be because of the environmental
contaminants that build up in fish. It all started
with Agent Orange. We sprayed 20 million gallons
of the stuff on Vietnam, and some of it was contaminated
with trace amounts of dioxins. Though the Red Cross
there estimates a million Vietnamese
were adversely affected, what about all the servicemen,
the U.S. servicemen, who were exposed spraying
it across the countryside? Reports started showing up that
veterans exposed to Agent Orange appeared to have higher diabetes
rates than unexposed veterans, a link that’s now
officially recognized. These so-called persistent
organic pollutants are mainly man-made
industrial chemicals and among the most hazardous
compounds ever synthesized. They include dioxins, PCBs, and certain
chlorine-containing pesticides, all of which are highly resistant to
breaking down in the environment. Initially described for their deleterious
effects on reproductive function and their ability
to cause cancer, there is now a growing body
of evidence showing that exposure to these pollutants
leads to metabolic diseases, such as diabetes. This is a breakthrough that should
require our greatest attention.

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