High levels of omega-3 in childhood diet were found to be linked to a reduced likelihood of islet autoimmunity (IA) in children at risk from type-1 diabetes.
IA is generally thought to precede onset of type-1 diabetes.
The longitudinal, observational study, called the Diabetes Autoimmunity Study in the Young (DAISY), involved 1,770 at-risk children recruited between birth and eight years of age.
This cohort had a high-risk genotype for type-1 diabetes (the human leukocyte antigen) or a diabetic parent or sibling.
Data on annual dietary intake were collected from the age of one. Levels of islet autoantibodies were also measured each year.
Children were followed-up until a mean age of six; 58 children tested positive for IA. After adjusting for genotype, family history, calorie intake and omega-6 intake, only omega-3 consumption was linked to an inverse IA risk, say the researchers.
High omega-3 intake reduced IA risk by 55 per cent.
Lead researcher Dr Jill Norris, from the University of Colorado at Denver, said: 'A higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids might increase the production of anti-inflammatory factors in the body, which may block or decrease early pathogenic inflammatory events.'
But she said it would be 'premature' to recommend changes to children's diets based on this study. The team will continue to follow-up the DAISY cohort.
'We will look at how omega-3 fatty acid intake interacts with other risk factors to explain why children contract type-1 diabetes,' she added.
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