Fight The Dangerous Side Effects Of High-Fat Desserts With This Special Fat
By Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, PhD, RD
Isn’t it interesting that when your doctor sends you to get your blood tested for your yearly physical, you have to go in a fasted state first thing in the morning?
But, if you really think about it: How much of your day do you actually spend in an 8-12 hour fasted condition?
Honestly, other than when you’re sleeping, you really don’t spend that much time between meals, because if you’re like most people, you eat somewhere between every two to six hours; sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.
So, why is it that when your blood risk factors for heart disease are checked - parameters like insulin, glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides - it’s done with you being in a non-normal fasted (starving) state? It doesn’t make much sense, does it?
That’s why researchers are now looking at risk factors for heart disease and other chronic conditions in more normal conditions; and hopefully soon, our physicians will catch on to this as well.
The time period between meals, which is where we spend more of our days, is called the post-prandial period.
And, recent evidence now suggests that high post-prandial blood cholesterol and triglyceride and insulin levels are strong independent risk factors for heart disease, even more than fasting levels.
Furthermore, the omega-3 essential fatty acids found in marine animals, like fish and krill, are well-known to improve our fasting blood lipid and insulin levels, and greatly reduce our risk of heart complications, but the effects in a post-prandial state are not quite as clear.
New Omega-3 Post-Prandial Research
Recently, researchers from Italy took on this unknown, but important health question, and investigated the effects of omega-3 essential fatty acid supplementation on men and women with elevated risk factors for heart disease in a post-prandial condition.
Over a period of 6 months, 157 men and women between the ages of 18 and 75 were included in the study if they had high total cholesterol levels, insulin, and triglycerides, but had never taken lipid-lowering medication.
The patients were divided into one of two groups who took either 1g of omega-3 EPA and DHA (the special omega-3 fatty acids found only in marine oils) or a placebo, combined with a calorie-reduced diet and regular exercise.
Both the researchers and the subjects did not know what type of supplements they were taking until the entire study was completed, so that there would be no biased results (known as a double-blind study).
At the beginning and the end of the study, the patients all underwent a special type of post-prandial blood testing, known as an oral fat load test. This is a situation where the patients are asked to eat a high fat meal, which in this case was 350 mL of whipping cream with light chocolate syrup and milk, and then have their blood lipid and insulin levels evaluated. They also had regular blood testing throughout the study.
After the six-month study period, subjects in both groups who followed a lower-calorie eating plan and regular exercise, lost body weight, body fat, and total post-prandial cholesterol levels, regardless of the type of supplement (omega-3 or placebo) that they took.
Most interestingly was that the group taking 1g of EPA and DHA each day for the past six months had a more significant reduction in post-prandial triglycerides and insulin, and a more significant increase in HDL (good) cholesterol than the placebo group, whereas the placebo group had no positive changes in these parameters at all.
What this shows is that in a post-prandial high-fat condition (similar to if you had a large, creamy dessert after dinner), people who regularly take omega-3 essential fatty acids, were better able to handle the fat and use it for energy than those who did not take these special fatty acids at all.
Also, people taking the omega-3 supplement had significant decreases in novel blood markers of insulin resistance, known as resistan and RBP-4, and increases in a compound called ADN, which indicated that their bodies were much better at handling and disposing of sugary high-fat meals.
High levels of resistan in the body decrease the ability of insulin to stop liver glucose output like it’s supposed to, and prevent muscle from taking up glucose for energy. Also, RBP-4 is increased in people with insulin resistance and/or type-2 diabetes compared to lean, healthy people, while ADN helps the body burn more fat for fuel and prevents the damaging effects of high blood glucose. Overall, changes in these makers indicate that omega-3 fatty acids from marine sources help prevent and reverse insulin resistance, which eventually can lead to many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.
Protect your Health with Omega-3 Fats
The results of this research have important implications for our health and the health of those around us.
First, there is more to heart health and diabetes prevention than fasted blood tests that your doctor sends you for each year; it’s more important to look at how your body functions after a meal, and what your risk factors for disease are in that common situation.
Second, omega-3 fatty acids from marine oils, like krill and fish, can greatly help you deal with common situations of un-ideal eating; such as when you’re getting ready to eat a Mile-High Ice Cream Pie, and just know that your blood cholesterol and insulin levels are going to take a beating.
If you regularly take omega-3 fats containing EPA and DHA, your body will be better at dealing with dangerous desserts, and will not suffer as badly afterwards.
However, this does not give you a free pass to eat buckets of ice cream whenever you like – it just lets you know that if you regularly take omega-3 fatty acids, you won’t end up in a coffin if you choose to eat these treats once in a while.
Effects of n-3 PUFA on insulin resistance after an oral fat load
Giuseppe Derosa, Arrigo F.G. Cicero, Elena Fogari, Angela D’Angelo, Aldo Bonaventura and Pamela Maffioli
Eur. J. Lipid Sci. Technol. 2011