A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill proposes that different diet components may help preserve beta cell function, once the disease is contracted.
Research has shown that people with type 1 diabetes who have greater concentrations of C-peptide have fewer microvascular complications. C-peptide is a byproduct of insulin production that is cleaved from the insulin molecule before it is released into the circulation. The more C- peptide a person has, the greater the insulin production and the less need for additional insulin taken by injection. Many patients with type 1 diabetes have some level of preserved beta cell function at the time of diagnosis, but this decreases over time.
Therefore, even though diet is not a cause of type 1 diabetes, if it is proven to influence the course of the disease early on, then modifying your diet may be advantageous.
The study, called the “Nutritional factors and preservation of C-peptide in youth with recently diagnosed type 1 diabetes: SEARCH Nutrition Ancillary Study,” published in July 2013 in Diabetes Care looked at data from the Search for Diabetes in Youth study. It included 1,316 people under 20 years of age diagnosed with diabetes within the last nine months. They were followed for approximately 2 years. The researchers looked at length of breastfeeding and age of introduction of solid foods. They also investigated the participants’ blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids (EPA) and (DHA), vitamin D and vitamin E and collected information on their amino acid, leucine and total carbohydrate intake.
The researchers collected information on total insulin use and fasting plasma level of C-peptide (FCP) from each participant, and assessed their dietary intake with a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).
The results were interesting. The omega-3 fatty acids and leucine were positively associated with higher follow-up fasting C-peptide levels. Vitamin D, on the other hand, had the opposite association. Higher vitamin D levels correlated with lower levels of FCP concentrations at baseline and at follow –up. Breast-feeding and introduction of solid foods did not appear to have any influence on FCP levels.
This observational found that the people who consumed greater amounts of foods containing omega-3 fatty acids and leucine had more C-peptide reserves and hence the ability to produce more insulin than those who consumed less.
It didn’t necessarily prove that greater amounts of omega 3s and leucine were the cause of the higher C-peptide levels. The just just showed a correlation, which doesn’t prove causation. However, since omega-3s are heart healthy , it can’t hurt to include more fatty fish in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in large ocean dwelling fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. Leucine is a branch-chained amino acid found in high quantities in meats, dairy products and soy. To avoid extra saturated fat, obtain your leucine from lean meats, low fat dairy and soy.