Omega-3 Lowers Risk of Type 1 Diabetes by 55 Percent in High Risk Group

Old-fashioned cod liver oil supplements in infancy have already been associatedwith a decreased risk of type 1 diabetes among Norwegian children, who areapparently given the omega-3-rich, albeit nauseating, tonic on a regular basis.

Now researchers from the University of Colorado have discovered that amongchildren at high risk of type 1 diabetes, those who ate a lot of omega-3s had a55 percent lower risk of developing type 1. In another words, they were half aslikely to develop type 1 as those who ate less omega-3.

The researchers examined 1,770 children who were at high risk of developing type1, either because they had a family member with type 1 or because they hadgenetic markers indicating increased risk. The children were followed from theage of one year until they were slightly over six years old. During that time,58 of the children developed pancreatic Islet Autoimmunity (IA).

IA is a precursor to type 1 diabetes; it's defined as being positive for threeantibodies (insulin, glutamic acid decarboxylase, or insulinoma-associatedantigen-2 antibodies) on two visits, and then still being autoantibody positiveor having diabetes on a final visit.

In the study, total omega-3 intake (as reported by the children's parents)conferred a 55 percent reduced risk of developing IA. The link was even strongerif the end point included only those children positive for two, rather than allthree, antibodies. In another group of children, whose blood was actuallymeasured for biomarkers of omega-3 consumption, high levels of omega-2 reducedrisk of type 1 by 37 percent.

The researchers hypothesize that the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 mayunderlie its protective effect. Although they warn that it's too soon torecommend that children be given omega-3s for the prevention of diabetes, anyhealthy diet can include them. Omega-3 is found in fish, walnuts, olive andcanola oils, special supplement capsules, and, of course, the revolting codliver oil.

Sources: Medline Plus, EurekAlert; Journal of the American Medical Association,September 2007

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