EPA and DHA can help prevent kidney disease in people with diabetes


It has been known for some time that diabetes is the main cause of chronic kidney disease in the world. More than half the cases of terminal kidney disease, i.e. those that require dialysis or kidney transplantation, are caused by so-called diabetic nephropathy.

One way of assessing whether kidneys are working correctly is by measuring albumin levels in a urine sample and comparing them to creatinine levels. This is known as the albumin/creatinine ratio. When everything is in order, urine contains high amounts of creatinine and hardly any albumin. But if concentrations of the latter protein increase, this means that the kidney is not carrying out its filtering function properly.

Kidney damage is considered to exist when the albumin/creatinine ratio is above 30 μg/mg, i.e. when urine contains more than 30 mg of albumin for each gram of creatinine. This is known as albuminuria, a problem which is not only common among people with diabetes, but also increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids effects on kidney disease

Albuminuria is attenuated by drugs normally prescribed to people with hypertension, so-called ACE inhibitors (such as enalapril and captopril) and ARBs (such as valsartan and irbesartan). However, a recently published article in the journal ‘Current Diabetic Reports’ reviewed the studies on whether omega-3 fatty acids could be useful in slowing deterioration in kidney function in people with diabetes already receiving these antihypertensive drugs. For instance, taking eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for a year has been shown to slow progression of albuminuria in patients with diabetes and heart disease.

Furthermore, the number of patients taking EPA and DHA who experience a drop in the albumin-creatinine ratio was three times that of the control group, who did not take the omega-3. There were even cases of the ratio returning to normal, meaning that these patients no longer suffered from kidney damage.

These are some of the promising results suggesting that Omega-3 could be a cheap and safe dietary supplement to help many people with diabetes avoid developing chronic kidney disease.



Welty FK. New Areas of Interest: Is There a Role for Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in Patients With Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease?  Curr Diab Rep. 2019 Jan 25;19(2):6. doi: 10.1007/s11892-019-1126-5.

Elajami TK, Alfaddagh A, Lakshminarayan D, Soliman M, Chandnani M, Welty FK. Eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids attenuate progression of albuminuria in patients with type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;6:e004740.