Gestational diabetes mellitus, also known as GDM, is a form of diabetes that is associated with the onset of pregnancy. It is a condition that is reported to affect up to 14% of pregnancies, with symptoms affecting both mother and child. This disease is characterized by hyperglycemia, high blood sugar levels, as a result of insulin resistance. Symptoms of GDM can include pre-eclampsia, neonatal hypoglycemia, respiratory distress syndrome and can increase the odds of developing coronary artery disease in the future. Recent observational studies have indicated that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements are associated with a decrease in the number of pregnancy complications experienced by women, and furthermore have been implicated in improving insulin resistance. Additionally, separate studies have also demonstrated the benefits of vitamin E on insulin resistance and cholesterol levels. However, while these supplements have shown positive effects separately, the researchers of this study wanted to determine if taken together, would they work to produce better outcomes for these women and their children. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the effects of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E on the glucose and cholesterol levels in women suffering from GDM.
This study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, examined 60 women living in Kashan, Iran that were between the ages of 18 and 40. To be considered for this study, these women had to have been diagnosed with GDM, according to the guidelines established by the American Diabetes Association, while 24 to 28 weeks pregnant. Women were excluded from participating if they had been diagnosed with either pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, if they had a urinary tract infection, or if they were smokers. Once selected for this study, the women were randomly divided into two groups. One group received treatment consisting of 1000mg omega-3 fatty acids supplements and 400-IU vitamin E supplements, while the other group received a placebo treatment. At the beginning of the study, blood samples were collected from the women and tested for insulin concentrations and cholesterol levels. The blood was re-measured after the study had concluded, 6 weeks later.
The findings of the study indicate that the co-supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E is beneficial to women suffering from gestational diabetes mellitus. Specifically, researchers found that after 6 weeks, the women taking omega-3 and vitamin E supplements had lower serum insulin levels, which suggests an increase in insulin sensitivity. Additionally, these women experienced a significant reduction in their triglyceride levels, as well as their VLDL-cholesterol levels, which is responsible for plaque build-up in the arteries, reducing blood flow. Interestingly, these women also experienced a significant increase in the amount of HDL-cholesterol present, also known as good cholesterol, as increased levels help to reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease.
Therefore, the results from this study demonstrate the positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E on the glucose and cholesterol levels in women suffering from GDM. While these results are interesting, further research is needed to determine the exact mechanism through which these supplements act. Additionally, more studies testing different doses and larger sample sizes will be required to corroborate these results .
Written By: Sonia Parmar, BSc.
Taghizadeh M, Jamilian M, Mazloomi M, Sanami M, Asemi Z. 2016. A randomized-controlled clinical trial investigating the effect of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E co-supplementation on markers of insulin metabolism and lipid profiles in gestational diabetes. J Clin Lipidol. 10: 386-393.