According to a new study by researchers in the United States children at risk of developing type 1 diabetes may be able to lessen that risk by consuming omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.
The researchers from the Universities of Colorado and Florida, and Roche Molecular Systems, conducted a study involving 1,770 children considered to be at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
The children took part in the study from the age of two and were followed for an average of 6.2 years.
The children were considered to be at high risk for developing type 1 diabetes if they had a HLA (human leukocyte antigen) genotype or had a family member suffering from the condition.
Their mothers were asked to complete a food item frequency questionnaire (FFQ) each year of the study period which covered 111 different foods.
After factors such as family history of type 1 diabetes, caloric intake, and total omega-6 fatty acid intake were allowed for, the researchers found that an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a 55 percent reduction in the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Lead author Jill Norris says the study results suggest that a higher consumption of total omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a lower risk of islet autoimmunity (IA) in children at increased genetic risk of type 1 diabetes.
Experts believe type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that results in the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas; although the disease mainly affects children, the exact cause remains unclear.
Type 1 diabetes is treatable there is no cure; it is thought to be influenced by both environmental and genetic factors.
Mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon are fish rich in omega-3.
The study is published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.