Children, Omega-3 and Diabetes

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Children at increased risk for developing type 1 diabetes may benefit from getting more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets.

The Diabetes Autoimmunity Study* in the Young enrolled 1,770 children who either had genes associated with the development of type 1 or a sibling or parent with type 1. Researchers found that children who ate foods high in omega-3s were less likely to develop antibodies associated with type 1 diabetes.

Between 1994 and 2006, parents of the children enrolled in the study answered yearly questionnaires about their children’s diet. The questionnaires asked how often, on average, their children ate certain foods, with possible answers ranging from “never” to “more than 6 times per day.” Meals known to be high in omega-3s—such as canned tuna, shellfish, and “dark meat” fish such as salmon, mackerel, and swordfish—were specifically included.

The children had yearly blood tests that measured antibodies associated with type 1. If a child developed such antibodies, he or she then had blood drawn every 3 to 6 months for the remainder of the study. The researchers also measured blood glucose for children with antibodies.

At study’s end, the researchers found that children who were reported to have had the highest intake of omega-3s had a 55-percent lower risk of developing antibodies associated with type 1.

*This study was published in the Sept. 26, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.