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Is Fish Good For People With Diabetes?

Fish and reduced risk of diabetes have been linked in many studies. According to a study, consumption of high amounts of fish may not totally inverse the development of diabetes, but could help reduce its risk among individuals with a high prevalence of obesity. [1]

Fish is a great source of essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and vitamin D which are essential for diabetics in managing glucose levels, preventing insulin resistance and reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications like heart diseases.

In this article, we will discuss the association between fish and diabetes. Take a look.

1. Rich in vitamin D

A study has shown that regular intake of fatty fish (not lean fish) such as salmon and herring can help increase levels of vitamin D in the body. [2] Vitamin D is a vital vitamin in fish and is associated with a lower risk of diabetes. It may help improve the insulin sensitivity in the body, which is a precursor to diabetes, and thus may help reduce its risk. [3]

2. Rich in proteins

Fish is a good dietary source of proteins. According to a study, fish such as Mustelus antarcticus contains a unique combination of high-quality proteins which may help provide a great level of satiety, compared to beef and chicken. Also, fish like tuna reduces both appetite and food consumption compared to turkey and egg and thus, may help stimulate an improved insulin response. Therefore, dietary proteins may help improve insulin sensitivity in pre-diabetics and diabetics. [4]

3. Rich in omega 3 fatty acids

The abundance of omega-3 fatty acids in fish not only helps manage diabetes, but has a lot of other health benefits. Omega-3 helps reduce the pro-inflammatory cytokines which are considered to be the primary cause of diabetes. This essential nutrient also helps regulate cholesterol levels and thus, lowers the risk of diabetes-induced heart diseases. [5]

4. Low in calories

Obesity plays a great role in the development of diabetes. It can impair the production of glucose and utilisation of glucose by the body cells, along with increasing the inflammation and fats, thus leading to insulin resistance and ultimately, diabetes.
Some fish like tilapia, cod, flounder and sole are low in calories, high in proteins, easy to prepare and could help manage and prevent diabetes when included in the diet. [6]

5. Rich in fibre

Fibre is also an essential component in fish. A study has shown that increased intake of dietary fibre via fish can help lower bad cholesterol levels in the body, thus reducing plasma lipid levels, which can contribute to the management of glucose in people with diabetes. [7] Some studies also talk about the beneficial effect of fibre during gestational diabetes.

6. Rich in vitamin B12

A study reports that a high prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency has been noticed in the population with type 2 diabetes. Also, the risk of B12 deficiency was high in older adults, people with prolonged diabetes mellitus and those treated with metformin. [8] Fish is a rich source of dietary B12 and could help manage diabetes. Also, though the amount of B12 in fish is less than meat and dairy, it is considered healthy due to low calories and fats content, compared to unhealthy fats and high-calorie content in animal meats. [9]

7. Rich in Vitamin B6

Studies say that low levels of B6 in diabetics can lead them to diabetes complications such as neuropathy and retinopathy, which could be life-threatening and affect the quality of life [10] Fish, especially yellowfin and tuna are among the richest sources of vitamin B6 and their consumption could help lower the risk of diabetes-induced complications. [11]

8. Good source of selenium

Selenium is an important antioxidant mineral found in fish, but in trace amounts. According to a study, selenium can help reduce the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes due to its ability to scavenge free radicals in the body. These radicals cause harm to pancreatic beta cells and cells involved in glucose utilisation and thus, increase risk of diabetes. Selenium, being an antioxidant, may help reduce their effect and thus, the risk of diabetes. [12]

How Much Fish To Consume

According to the NHS, the recommended quantity of fish for diabetics includes twice a week, with at least one serving being a fatty fish. The portion is deemed to be around 140 g/serving cooked fish.

Best Fish Varieties Which Diabetics Must Consume

Some of the best varieties of fish which diabetics must consume include:

  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Cod
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Herring

To Conclude

Fish is extremely healthy in the management of diabetes, however, its higher amount can cause an adverse effect. Avoid consuming too much fatty fish and mercury-loaded fish. Also, before starting on omega-3 supplements or fish oil supplements, consult a medical expert.

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