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July 21, 2013 by MAE CHAN
The Simple Addition of Foods Rich In Amino and Fatty Acids Helps Type 1 Diabetics Produce Their Own Insulin

Simple dietary modifications that include the addition of foods rich in certain amino and fatty acids could help people with type 1 diabetes to keep producing at least some of their own insulin, according to new research in Diabetes Care.

Type I diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes in humans, is caused by a shortage of insulin in the body. Type II diabetes is caused by the body’s inefficient use of insulin due to a condition known as insulin resistance.

Quite a bit of controversy among researchers has centered on whether this trigger might be the protein in cow's milk or wheat gluten, the concentrated form of the protein contained in wheat flour that's sometimes used in infant cereals.

A recent study published in Diabetologia also found a correlation between serum levels of vitamin D3 and subsequent incidence of Type 1 diabetes. They found that deficiency in vitamin D may be associated with an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes, according to new research.

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.

Nutrient Boost

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.

Diabetes Care

Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.