Seal oil has the potential to help promote nerve regeneration in patients with Type-1 diabetes, says a study.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, showed that patients who ingested an omega-3 supplement derived from seal oil twice a day over a one-year period reported an increase in corneal nerve fibre length.
“Nothing like this has been attempted in humans before,” said one of the study’s authors Evan Lewis from Krembil Neuroscience Centre, University Health Network in Canada.
“Results from this trial are a very important step towards a clinical therapy for people with diabetic neuropathy,” Lewis said.
Diabetic neuropathy is a form of nerve damage caused by diabetes. Symptoms vary from patient to patient, but can include tingling, numbness, loss of sensation, a feeling of burning in the hands and feet, constant pain and difficulty in walking.
There are currently no therapies available for patients that stop or reverse its effects.
“This study is the first to show that targeted nutritional invention can stop and reverse small fibre damage,” the study’s principal investigator Vera Bril from the University Health Network said.
The study involved 40 patients and focused primarily on corneal nerve fibre length.
Located at the front of the eye, the cornea has the highest density of nerves in the body.
Damage to these nerves, or loss of corneal nerve fibre length, is considered a biomarker for the progression of Type-1 diabetes. The study did not measure vision recovery.
Researchers investigated the effects of the omega-3 seal oil supplement on nerve structure and found that patients on average experienced a 29 per cent increase in corneal nerve fibre length, which is considered to be representative of small nerve fibre regeneration in other parts of the body.
“These findings suggest that use of this supplement may have the potential to have a regenerative effect,” Lewis said.