Historically, epidemiologic studies have reported a lower prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes in populations consuming large amounts of the n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LC-PUFAs) found mainly in fish. Controlled clinical studies have shown that consumption of n-3 LC-PUFAs has cardioprotective effects in persons with type 2 diabetes without adverse effects on glucose control and insulin activity.

Benefits include lower risk of primary cardiac arrest; reduced cardiovascular mortality, particularly sudden cardiac death; reduced triglyceride levels; increased high-density lipoprotein levels; improved endothelial function; reduced platelet aggregability; and lower blood pressure. These favorable effects outweigh the modest increase in low-density lipoprotein levels that may result from increased n-3 LC-PUFA intake.

Preliminary evidence suggests increased consumption of n-3 LC-PUFAs with reduced intake of saturated fat may reduce the risk of conversion from impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes in overweight persons.

Reported improvements in hemostasis, slower progression of artery narrowing, albuminuria, subclinical inflammation, oxidative stress, and obesity require additional confirmation. Expected health benefits and public health implications of consuming 1 to 2 g/day n-3 LC-PUFA as part of lifestyle modification in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are discussed.