A new Finnish study has reported that consuming fatty acids during breastfeeding may provide protection against type 1 diabetes-associated autoimmunity and that fish-derived fatty acids may be protective during infancy.
Performing a nested case-control analysis within the Finnish Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention Study birth cohort, carrying HLA-conferred susceptibility to type 1 diabetes (n=7782), the study analysed 240 infants with islet autoimmunity and 480 control infants (at 3 and 6 months) and found that fatty acids were associated with primary insulin autoimmunity.
“Serum fatty acid composition differed between breastfed and non-breastfed infants, reflecting differences in the fatty acid composition of the milk. The associations between primary insulin autoimmunity were stronger with higher palmitoleic acid, cis-vaccenic, arachidonic, docosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids decreasing risk (breastfed infants) and higher alpha-linoleic acid and arachidonic:docosahexaenoic ratios and omega-6:omega-3 acid ratios increasing risk (non-breastfed infants),” the researchers reported.
“Moreover, 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 researchers claim that their results clarify the complex associations between fatty acid status, milk type and type 1 diabetes development – an important understanding as during early infancy breast milk and infant formulas are the main dietary sources of fatty acids with mothers able to affect the type of fat in breast milk through her own diet, for example by eating fish during the breastfeeding period.
The authors conclude that breast milk consumption may reduce the risk of primary insulin autoimmunity. They suggest that further research be undertaken to determine the effect of nutrition in infancy and consumption of fatty acids have in the prevention of type 1 diabetes.
Diabetologia (2017). doi:10.1007/s00125-017-4280-9