Researchers in Canada have discovered what might be a valuable new use for a product manufactured in their country. That product is seal oil, or seal oil extract, an item that, like its related counterpart, fish oil, has been extolled by some nutritionists because it contains omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have suggested that omega-3s might be beneficial for concerns such as depression, anxiety, brain and eye health, and a healthy heart.
This latest study, conducted by researchers at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre in Toronto, adds to that list nerve regeneration in people with Type 1 diabetes, many of whom experience what is known as diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage resulting from the disease. The study enlisted 40 subjects with Type 1 diabetes who were instructed to take a supplement derived from seal oil twice a day for a year. The study concentrated on the length of the patients’ corneal nerve fibers. These fibers are located in the cornea at the front of the eye, an area that has the highest density of nerves in the body. Researchers consider these nerves to be representative of small nerve fibers in other parts of the body. After the one-year testing period, the researchers discovered that, on average, the patients experienced a 29% increase in corneal fiber length. According to Evan Lewis, MD, one of the study’s authors, this finding suggests that use of a seal-oil supplement “may have the potential to have a regenerative effect.”
Despite the encouraging results of the study, the researchers do not consider it conclusive. They were hoping that the results would lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive study — a “phase three randomized controlled trial involving a larger group of participants.” Even so, Dr. Lewis pointed out that “nothing like this has been attempted in humans before. Results from this trial are a very important step towards a clinical therapy for people with diabetic neuropathy.”