Fatty Acids From Fish During Infancy May Lower Risk of Type 1 Diabetes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Sari Niinistö, PhD Senior Researcher, Public Health Solutions, Nutrition Unit National Institute for Health and Welfare Helsinki, Finland

Dr. Niinistö

Sari Niinistö, PhD
Senior Researcher,
Public Health Solutions, Nutrition Unit
National Institute for Health and Welfare
Helsinki, Finland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Previous prospective studies have observed protective association between fish-derived fat and type 1 diabetes related autoimmunity in older children. Also some other fatty acids have been associated with the risk for type 1 diabetes associated autoimmunity. We wanted to study very young children, because type 1 diabetes associated autoimmunity often begins early, already in infancy. Therefore, we investigated whether serum fatty acid levels during infancy or the main dietary sources of fatty acids (breast milk and infant formula) were related to the development of autoimmunity responses among children at increased genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: The study found that children had a smaller risk of early type 1 diabetes related autoimmunity, the more their blood contained fish-derived fatty acids in infancy. Breastfeeding was also protectively associated with early autoimmunity, which may partly be due to the beneficial fatty acid content in breast milk. On the other hand, amount of cow’s milk consumed during infancy was associated with higher risk.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This study suggests that early nutrition, including fatty acid intake, may play a role in the prevention of type 1 diabetes in children at increased genetic risk. Findings indicate that the first year of a child may be important in the terms of prevention.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: More studies are needed to clarify the effect of early nutrition during infancy and of fish fatty acids and other fatty acids on autoimmune responses that can trigger type 1 diabetes. Fatty acid composition of infant formula differs from breast milk. Thus, further studies are warranted to investigate what is the most beneficial fatty acid composition of infant food for the child’s health.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: If the current findings will be confirmed and causality will be proven in further studies, the safe prevention of type 1 diabetes would be possible.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Fatty acid status in infancy is associated with the risk of type 1 diabetes-associated autoimmunity
Niinistö, S., Takkinen, HM., Erlund, I. et al. Diabetologia (2017). doi:10.1007/s00125-017-4280-9

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Last Updated on May 8, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD