Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fish, promote heart health by preventing the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. Little is known about the effect of consuming omega-3 in people with type 1 diabetes, who are at much greater risk for heart disease.
The study included 601 men and women enrolled in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study, a long-term prospective examination of childhood onset type 1 diabetes that began in 1986. Participants were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes between 1950 and 1980.
During the course of the study, 166 participants (27.6 percent) were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Generally, omega-3 intake among participants was low.
The incidence of heart disease was lowest in men who consumed the highest quantities of omega-3 - more than 0.2 grams per day. Women who consumed similar amounts of omega-3 did not have lower rates of heart disease.
"Although omega-3 is typically associated with decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, this may not be the case for women who have type 1 diabetes," said Tina Costacou, lead author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Importantly, our study suggests we shouldn't assume men and women with type 1 diabetes are the same," Costacou added.
The study is being presented at the 70th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association.