Could Dietary Tweaks Ease Type 1 Diabetes?
Foods rich in amino and fatty acids may help preserve insulin production, study suggests
Nutritional information was gathered from participants and mothers, including information on the consumption of foods containing leucine. Blood samples were analyzed for nutrients such as vitamin D and fatty acids. Blood samples also were used to measure the amount of C-peptide, which is a byproduct of insulin production.
After two years, the researchers found that leucine and omega-3 fatty acids were significantly associated with higher levels of C-peptide.
Vitamin D, which has long been suspected to be somewhat protective against type 1 diabetes, was linked to lower levels of C-peptide in this study. Mayer-Davis said she feels this finding may have been due to chance, especially since it isn't consistent with previous research.
Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids appeared to have a linear relationship with the preservation of beta cell function, Mayer-Davis said. That means the more omega-3 fatty acids in the blood, the greater the likelihood of higher levels of C-peptide.
"It's possible that there are approaches that may improve the ability to produce insulin after diagnosis," Mayer-Davis said. "Within the context of a healthy diet, dairy products, high-protein foods and salmon may help. But parents shouldn't expect that these foods will be a miracle. Their children will still need insulin."
For his part, Zonszein said, "Type 1 is a very complex disease. I think this needs to be studied more, but I wouldn't recommend dietary changes now. I think the potential mechanism of action needs to be studied. But changing diets dramatically, especially in kids, can dramatically change the flora [such as bacteria] in the gut, which may create other problems."
Mayer-Davis agreed that more research is needed, and she said she hopes other scientists look into this connection.
Asked if this information could benefit children or adults with type 2 diabetes, Zonszein said it's impossible to know from this study. Mayer-Davis noted, however, that previous research on animals with type 2 disease is one of the factors that initially sparked their interest in this nutrient.
Results of the study appear in the July issue of the journal Diabetes Care.