Peripheral neuropathy affects about 50% of the diabetic population. The manifestations range from pain, numbness, paresthesia and ulceration in the extremities and it is the major cause of non-traumatic amputations. Currently there is no effective treatment for peripheral neuropathy. With the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes and associated complications reaching epidemic levels there is a critical need for finding a treatment to preserve nerve function.
This article will review the potential for fish oil as a treatment for diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
A through search of the PubMed database was performed and relevant articles on the topic were included in this review.
Many studies support a role for fish oil in cardiovascular health. However, less information is available regarding the effect of fish oil on diabetes complications including neuropathy. Pre-clinical studies from my laboratory using diabetic rodent models have demonstrated that fish oil can slow progression and reverse diabetic neuropathy as determined by examining multiple endpoints. Mechanistically fish oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Lowering the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio has been shown to be anti-thrombotic. Moreover, metabolites of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, the main polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil, commonly referred to as resolvins and neuroprotectin have been shown to be neuroprotective and can stimulate neuron outgrowth in vitro.
Additional studies are required but existing data suggests that dietary enrichment with omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oil may be beneficial treatment for diabetic neuropathy.