(NaturalNews) Overweight and worried about your health risks? You should be. Obesity has become an epidemic in the US and it goes hand in hand with a host of other modern-day "epidemics", including diabetes and heart disease.
Ready to do something about it? Consider this potentially life-saving move: start upping your intake of omega-3s.
Here's why. Although losing excess pounds is important for overall health, a new study just published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition strongly suggests that a high intake of omega-3s, the "good" fats found in cold water fish like salmon, can help prevent serious, chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease (which is often found in people wtih type 2 diabetes), even in the obese.
Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, working in collaboration with researchers at the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, studied a group of Yup'ik Eskimos in Alaska -- a population that on average consumes a whopping 20 times more omega-3 fats from fish than people in the lower 48 states.
The researchers investigated data from a community-based study of 330 people living in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region of southwest Alaska. The participants gave blood samples and provided health information in personal interviews and with questionnaires. The research subjects kept a log of everything they ate for three consecutive days, too. Their height, weight, percent body fat, blood pressure and physical activity were also measured.
It turns out that about 70 percent of these Eskimos were overweight or downright obese. Does this make them way fatter than other Americans? Not at all. In fact, the Yup'ik Eskimos have overweight/obesity levels similar to those in the rest of the U.S.
But the scientists did find something very unusual about this group of people.
Being overweight is known to be associated with high levels of triglycerides (a blood fat) and C-reactive protein, or CRP (a measure of overall body inflammation). Elevated levels of triglycerides and CRP both greatly increase the risk of heart disease and are believed to also spur the development of diabetes. But the Eskimos who consumed a lot of omega-3s, even the fat ones, had a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes -- 3.3 percent versus 7.7 percent.
"Because Yup'ik Eskimos have a traditional diet that includes large amounts of fatty fish and have a prevalence of overweight or obesity that is similar to that of the general U.S. population, this offered a unique opportunity to study whether omega-3 fats change the association between obesity and chronic disease risk," lead author Zeina Makhoul, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Cancer Prevention Program of the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center, said in a media statement.
"Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons," Dr. Makhoul said. "It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup'ik Eskimos from some of the harmful effects of obesity."