Type 1 diabetes occurs in approximately 10 % of adults.  It can develop at any age but usually appears before the age of 40, and especially in childhood. It is the most common type of diabetes found in childhood. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, i.e. the body mistakenly identifies insulin-producing beta cells as being foreign to the body. The immune system then targets and destroys the beta cells, resulting in an absence of insulin,which leads to diabetes.

Symptoms can include excessive thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, weakness and fatigue and blurred vision. Type 1 diabetes sufferers have to inject insulin every day to prevent dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar levels and prevent hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. It is one of the most common chronic diseases among children, and Australia has one of the highest rates of type 1 diabetes in the world.

Research study

A new research, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation has revealed omega-3 fatty acids nutritional supplements may be a future therapeutic agent in the treatment of Type 1 diabetes. The three main types of omega-3’s fatty acids are Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are typically found in fish, seafood, and some vegetable oils.

Several Complementary and Alternative Medicine studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Furthermore, Complementary and Alternative Medicine research has revealed that omega-3 fatty acids help with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and heart disease.Allan Zhao’s research team at Guangdong University of Technology in China fed a regular diet, and a diet enriched with PUFAs to non-obese diabetic mice.

The researchers found that adding omega-3s to the diet of non-obese diabetic mice resulted in:

  • Significant improvements the metabolism of glucose
  • Decreased incidence of type 1 diabetes
  • The decrease in pro-inflammatory cell-signalling proteins
  • The decrease in insulitis (inflammation of the islets of Langerhans which contain the pancreatic β-cells)
  • Beta cell generation in the omega-:3 treated group

These findings suggest that increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements could have beneficial effects by reducing the autoimmune responses that lead to Type 1 diabetes in humans, and it can be still useful in preventing many diseases.