Dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids appears to be associated with a reduced risk of pancreatic islet autoimmunity (IA) in children who have an increased genetic susceptibility for type 1 diabetes. In a US longitudinal observational study, 1770 children at risk of developing diabetes were followed to a mean age of 6.2 years. Autoantibodies against islet components were measured, and dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids from the age of 1 year was assessed. Omega-3 fatty acid intake seemed to be associated with a decreased risk of IA. The association was independent of caloric intake. A smaller case–cohort study also showed that a high level of omega-3 fats in erythrocyte membranes was inversely associated with the risk of IA. The authors conclude that their results are highly suggestive of the benefit of such fatty acids, and that dietary supplementation could become an important part of early intervention to prevent the development of type 1 diabetes.
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