Targeted Nutritional Therapy for Diabetic Neuropathy
By: Dr. Evan Lewis, PhD
Everyone in Canada knows someone with diabetes. That is because there are now 11 million Canadians with type 1, type 2 or pre-diabetes. Over 50% of all diabetics will develop diabetes induced nerve damage, diagnosed as diabetic neuropathy within 10-years of their diabetes diagnosis.
Neuropathy is the most common diabetes complication and can have a debilitating effect on quality of life. Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include numbness, pain and loss of sensations starting in the hands and feet, which lead to impaired balance and difficulty walking. This directly increases the risk of falls, foot injury, ulcers and amputation.
The Current Standard
The current standard of care for diabetic neuropathy is to improve the patients’ lifestyle, maintain blood sugar control and then manage painful symptoms through various pharmacological agents, including opioids. However, none of these strategies address the nerve damage that causes painful symptoms. Currently there are no therapies that can prevent or reverse nerve damage from diabetes, which leaves a major gap in care for this population.
To address this major health challenge, my research has investigated how to use targeted nutritional therapy to stop and reverse nerve damage. Omega-3 fats are the essential building blocks for the development and maintenance of nerves; however these fats can only be sourced from the diet. The modern human diet is very low in these fats and those with diabetes have lower blood levels compared to non-diabetics.
The solution I developed and tested is a highly bioavailable triglyceride form omega-3 with EPA, DPA and DHA. All three of these omega-3 fats play a critical role in the development and maintenance of healthy nerves.
The Clinical Trial
Testing of this targeted nutritional therapy occurred in a Canadian Diabetes Association funded clinical trial at Ellen and Martin Prosserman Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases at the University Health Network. Forty participants with type 1 diabetes were given the omega-3 supplement containing all three essential omega-3s (EPA, DPA and DHA) at a dose of 10 mL/D.
After 12-months, participants’ showed nerve growth and regeneration measured by a highly significant 29% increase in corneal nerve fibre length. To better understand how the participants responded to treatment, they were divided into three groups based on baseline characteristics: 1) no neuropathy with low future risk; 2) no neuropathy with high future risk; and 3) diagnosed neuropathy. Participants with low future risk showed a 7% increase in corneal nerve fibre length, indicating supplementation prevented disease progression. Participants with high future neuropathy risk showed a 56% increase in corneal nerve fibre length, indicating supplementation prevented disease progression and lowered future risk. Those with diagnosed neuropathy showed a 27% increase, indicating supplementation reversed established nerve damage.
Why it Worked
All nerves throughout the body, including the brain, spinal cord, eyes and peripheral nerves, are composed of many types of fats, especially omega-3 fats. People with diabetes are not able to absorb and use omega-3s from the diet as easily as non-diabetics. This is especially true for the omega-3 DHA, which is necessary for nerve growth/regeneration. As a result, the body does not have the necessary building blocks to repair nerves damaged by diabetes. My research showed that by supplementing with high dose omega-3s (10 mL/D) with EPA, DPA and DHA the body had the necessary building blocks to repair nerve damage.
Because of these amazing results, Nutarniq Essentials, an improved version of the omega-3 therapy used in my trial has been approved for the Canadian market by Health Canada and is available at www.nutarniq.com and at select healthcare clinics and health food stores throughout Canada.
This trial is the first to show a targeted nutritional therapy can cause nerve regeneration in individuals with diabetes and is a very exciting step forward for those suffering from neuropathy. While the research was in type 1 diabetes, the mechanism by which the nerve regeneration occurred applies to type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and non-specific neuropathies (idiopathic neuropathies).
Nutarniq Essentials is available online at www.nutarniq.com
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Dr. Lewis completed his PhD at the University of Toronto, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine where he investigated the effects of omega-3 supplementation on neuromuscular function in athletes and as a therapy for diabetic neuropathy.