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Can fish oil-derived medication prevent diabetes complications?

New research, funded by Diabetes UK, aims to establish whether regular doses of medication derived from fish oil could be used to prevent the onset of some of the serious complications of diabetes. Dr Keith McCormick, podiatrist and lecturer at the University of Southampton, has been awarded a three-year Allied Health Professional Fellowship worth £197,112 to conduct an 18-month clinical trial as part of a larger study supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

McCormick will study 100 people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes to determine whether taking high-doses of purified n-3 long chain fatty acids in the form of Omacor, a medication derived from Norwegian fish oil, can improve the function of nerves and small blood vessels in the feet of those with insulin resistance.

McCormick said: “Omacor has already proved to be extremely successful in the treatment of high triglycerides in the blood, but if this trial is successful it will provide evidence that treatment with these purified long chain fatty acids can also serve to improve small nerve and blood vessel function that is very relevant to people at risk of Type 2 diabetes. It is hoped this knowledge could then help to improve the lives of people with diabetes who are at risk of nerve and blood vessel damage.”

McCormick’s is one of eight projects receiving ongoing funding from Diabetes UK, which last year dedicated £828,000 to support new research into the causes of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and protection against their complications. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is also supporting his research through core funding for the Biomedical Research Unit in Nutrition, Lifestyle and Obesity at Southampton University Hospitals Trust. Diabetes UK has stated its aim to spend over £6 million on diabetes research in 2011.

Professor Christopher Byrne is Principle Investigator responsible for the trial, which is also being undertaken with Professor Geraldine Clough and colleagues from the Southampton University Hospitals Trust and additional hospitals across the South Coast. McCormick’s research is being supervised by both Professor Byrne and Professor Clough.

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) has recently emphasised the increased risk of cardiovascular disease amongst diabetics. Speaking for the ESC Professor Joep Perk, Board Member of the European Association of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR), said: “The impact of growing obesity levels is pushing Type 2 diabetes into an epidemic. It is a very serious problem for healthcare providers due to the cost of treatment, but also for cardiologists who now see diabetes prevention as one of the main health challenges”. Perk insists that, while actively maintaining cardiovascular health is advisable to all, “for diabetics it is literally a matter of life or death”.


Katie Power
tel: 020 7424 1164

Published on: January 13, 2011

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