Type I diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune condition that develops after the immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic β cells, leading to impaired insulin production.
Currently, no therapies can successfully reverse the damage or progression of autoimmune attacks in Type I diabetes.
But recent findings have suggested that people with autoimmune conditions may benefit from supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid (FA), a type of polyunsaturated FA found in fish oil.
In this issue of the JCI, researchers in Allan Zhao’s lab at Guangdong University of Technology determined that dietary supplementation with omega-3 FAs can diminish the inflammatory processes that contribute to development of T1D.
In a mouse model of T1D, they observed that increasing omega-3 FA consumption improved glucose metabolism and reduced the occurrence of diabetes.
These improvements were associated with reductions in pro-inflammatory signaling molecules as well as reductions in immune cell infiltration into pancreatic islets.
Both dietary supplementation and gene therapy-mediated increases in omega-3 FAs led to long-term improvements in glucose and insulin levels. Moreover, the researchers observed signs of β-cell regeneration in the omega-3-treated T1D mice.
These findings suggest that increasing intake of omega-3 FAs could have beneficial effects by reducing the autoimmune responses that lead to T1D.