Simple dietary modifications that include the addition of foods rich in certain amino and fatty acids could help young people with type 1 diabetes to keep producing at least some of their own insulin for longer, according to new research.
Supplementing diets with a mixture of foods containing high levels of branched-chain amino acids and long chain omega-3 fatty acids could help young people who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to keep producing levels of insulin that may reduce the long term risk of diabetes complications, say researchers writing in Diabetes Care.
Led by Professor Elizabeth Mayer-Davis from Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the study analysed data from more than 1,300 youths recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
"Increased intake of branched-chain amino acids and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may support preservation of beta-cell function," said the authors.
"These novel results can be used to design future studies to establish the efﬁcacy and effectiveness of nutritional approaches to support preservation of b-cell function among youth with recently diagnosed type 1 diabetes," they added.
However, Mayer-Davis added that the study results reflect people eating actual foods rich in these nutrients, not those taking supplements.
The US-based researchers followed the 1,316 participants diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in order to analyse whether nutritional intake affected the levels of insulin produced over a two year period.
The participating youngsters, ranging from toddlers up to age 20, formed part of the multi-centre 'SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth' study - which is the largest U.S. study of childhood diabetes.
The team found that a high intake of specific foods rich in branched-chain amino acids such as leucine (which is known to stimulate insulin secretion) and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a higher production of insulin for longer - with some patients still producing at least some of their own insulin to two years after initial diagnosis.
Mayer-Davis noted that while all of the youths still required supplemental insulin, the participants may benefit from a reduced risk of diabetes complications by continuing to produce some of their own insulin.
"This also opens the door for a new approach that could really benefit the lives of these children," she commented.
Source: Diabetes Care
Volume 36, Number 7, Pages 1842-1850, doi: 10.2337/dc12-2084
"Nutritional Factors and Preservation of C-Peptide in Youth With Recently Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes: SEARCH Nutrition Ancillary Study"
Authors: Elizabeth J. Mayer-Davis, Dana Dabelea, et al