The new research, published in the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), examined whether blood fatty acid levels during childhood are linked to the development of autoimmunity among children at increased genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Specifically they tried to find out whether high levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids diminished the risk of autoimmune responses associated with type 1 diabetes.
Study tested 7,782 children up until the age of 15
The study took place between 1997 and 2004 and recruited 7,782 children predisposed to type 1 diabetes - blood samples were taken at regular intervals up until the age of 15 to monitor the presence of autoimmune responses.
Fish-derived fatty acids may be protective, particularly during infancy, against type 1 diabetes
The study found that fatty acids may play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes and that fish-derived fatty acids may be protective, particularly during infancy, against the disease.
Specifically, the results showed that higher levels of fish-derived fatty acids were linked with a lower risk of early autoimmunity.
Breastfed babies had higher levels of fatty acids
Further to this, the research found that fatty acids consumed during breastfeeding may provide protection against type 1 diabetes.
Breastfed babies had higher levels of fatty acids linked with lower risk of type 1 diabetes-related autoimmunity in comparison to non-breastfed infants.
Dr Sari Niinisto, an author on the research paper did note that while the study sheds new light on the role of fatty acids and milk feeding in the development of type 1 diabetes, the results need to be confirmed in prospective studies before further conclusions can be drawn.