A link between omega-3 consumption through breast milk and lower cases of type 1 diabetes has been found in a new study.
Researchers from Finland believe breastfeeding mothers who consume omega-3, a polyunsaturated fatty acid, could reduce the risk of their newborn babies developing type 1 diabetes.
Commonly found in fish, nuts, vegetable oils as well as leafy vegetables, omega-3 fats have been subject to much research in recent decades.
In this new study, scientists from the National Institute of Health and Welfare based in Helsinki wanted to explore whether high levels of omega-3 was associated with autoimmunity development.
They looked at almost 8,000 infants aged between 3-24 months who were deemed to be genetically at risk of type 1 diabetes. Blood samples were taken regularly until the age of 15 to measure islet cell (pancreatic beta cell) autoantibodies.
The researchers also tracked the use of breastfed milk and formula, the two main sources of fatty acids for infants.
They found that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids correlated with a lower risk of insulin autoimmunity, adding that omega-3 consumption could offer protective qualities against type 1 diabetes during infancy.
A link was also observed between fatty acids and the type of milk infants were fed, with the research team suggesting that “the quantity of breast milk consumed per day was inversely associated with primary insulin autoimmunity, while the quantity of cow’s milk consumed per day was directly associated”.
The study team believes that the fatty acids consumed during breastfeeding could be important in protecting against type 1 diabetes-associated autoimmunity, but acknowledge that further research is required to understand this correlation.
The research has been published in the journal Diabetologia.

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