Diet rich in amino acids and omega 3 beneficial to youngsters with type 1 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on July 22, 2013

Diet rich in amino acids and omega 3 beneficial to youngsters with type 1 diabete

Diet rich in amino acids and omega 3 beneficial to youngsters with type 1 diabete

Adding foods rich in amino acids and omega 3 to their diet could help young people recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to keep producing some of their own insulin for up to two years, according to scientists. Nutritional factors had been shown to lower the risk for the onset of diabetes, but a new study is the first to examine whether it could influence and even slow the disease’s progression after clinical diagnosis.

The team, led by Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health in the United States, looked at participants from toddler age to 20 years old who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. They knew that infant feeding practices, including breast feeding and timing of introduction of complementary foods, have been linked with the development of diabetes autoimmunity, which leads to type 1 diabetes.

Studies have also suggested that vitamins D and E and long chain polyunsaturated omega 3 fatty acids may produce protective effects against type 1 diabetes. Branched chain amino acids, particularly leucine, also are known to promote insulin secretion. The researchers set out to determine how much insulin, if any, the participants were producing up to two years after their diagnosis and compared this with nutritional intake.

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They looked especially for subjects who ingested foods containing the branched chain amino acid leucine and long chain fatty acids known as omega 3s. The results were analysed with statistical models to find links between the nutritional intake of foods rich in these components, or blood levels of the fatty acids, and specific verified measures of insulin production. ‘We found nutrition potentially could help those diagnosed with type 1 in their youth. Adding more branched chain amino acids and omega 3s would not replace the need to take insulin alone but it could help youth continue to produce some of their own insulin, which could reduce risk for diabetes complications,’ said Mayer-Davis.

The study involved eating foods rich in these nutrients and those taking part were not taking supplements. Mayer-Davis suggested that the best sources are dairy products, including milk, cheese and yogurt, meats, soy products, eggs, nuts and products made with whole wheat. To add omega 3s, people should include fatty fish, such as salmon, in the diet. ‘Of course, this is just a preliminary study, and though we are encouraged by the findings, we know further work needs to be done. However, this does open the door for a new approach that really could benefit the lives of these children,’ explained Mayer-Davis.

Type 1 diabetes is almost always diagnosed between infancy and young adulthood, according to the American Diabetes Association. The body’s pancreas is unable to produce adequate amounts of the hormone insulin, required to metabolise food properly and create energy for the body’s cells.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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