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For Diabetic Foot Ulcers, Get Your Omega-3s

It is estimated that 15 percent of individuals with type 2 diabetes will also develop foot ulcers. Because the nerve and blood vessel damage of diabetes affects peripheral tissues first, the tingling and “pins and needles” sensations can become so common that they are ignored until there are major problems. This can lead to infections, amputation, and – if untreated – death.

Type 2 diabetes is essentially a disease of nutritional imbalances: too many refined carbs, too much sugar, and a high caloric intake overall.

Typically missing in many diets are omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help build blood vessels, skin tissue, brain cells, and keep arteries flexible and healthy. While many studies have shown benefits from omega-3s for behavior, focus, vision, and cardiovascular function, a clinical study found that they can help heal ulcers in the feet associated with diabetes.

In 12 weeks, the wounds in the omega-3 group were smaller, their insulin levels were better balanced, and their C-reactive protein levels (an inflammatory marker) were reduced. They also had higher overall antioxidant levels, including higher levels of glutathione, considered the body’s “master antioxidant.”


Soleimani Z, Hashemdokht F, Bahmani F, Taghizadeh M, Memarzadeh MR, Asemi Z. Clinical and metabolic response to flaxseed oil omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in patients with diabetic foot ulcer: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Diabetes Complications. 2017;31(9):1394–1400.

Background: Data on the effects of flaxseed oil omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on wound healing and metabolic status in subjects with diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) are scarce.

Objective: This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of flaxseed oil omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on wound healing and metabolic status in subjects with DFU.

Methods: The current randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted among 60 subjects (aged 40-85years old) with grade 3 DFU. Subjects were randomly allocated into two groups (30 subjects each group) to receive either 1000mg omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed oil supplements or placebo twice a day for 12weeks.

Results: After the 12-week intervention, compared with the placebo, omega-3 fatty acids supplementation resulted in significant decreases in ulcer length (-2.0±2.3 vs. -1.0±1.1cm, P=0.03), width (-1.8±1.7 vs. -1.0±1.0cm, P=0.02) and depth (-0.8±0.6 vs. -0.5±0.5cm, P=0.01). Additionally, significant reductions in serum insulin concentrations (-4.4±5.5 vs. +1.4±8.3 μIU/mL, P=0.002), homeostasis model of assessment-estimated insulin resistance (-2.1±3.0 vs. +1.0±5.0, P=0.005) and HbA1c (-0.9±1.5 vs. -0.1±0.4%, P=0.01), and a significant rise in the quantitative insulin sensitivity check index (+0.01±0.01 vs. -0.005±0.02, P=0.002) were seen following supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids compared with the placebo. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids supplementation significantly decreased serum high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) (-25.5±31.5 vs. -8.2±18.9μg/mL, P=0.01), and significantly increased plasma total antioxidant capacity (TAC) (+83.5±111.7 vs. -73.4±195.5mmol/L, P<0.001) and glutathione (GSH) concentrations (+60.7±140.2 vs. -15.5±129.7μmol/L, P=0.03) compared with the placebo.

Conclusions: Overall, omega-3 fatty acids supplementation for 12weeks among subjects with DFU had beneficial effects on parameters of ulcer size, markers of insulin metabolism, serum hs-CRP, plasma TAC and GSH levels. In addition, flaxseed oil omega-3 fatty acids may have played an indirect role in wound healing due to its effects on improved metabolic profiles.

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Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.
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