There is a great need to identify “safe” and effective therapies that may prevent and positively impact the progression of autoimmune disorders, like Type 1 diabetes (T1D). Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D are both safe therapies with known anti-inflammatory effects and immuno-modulating properties, respectively. There have been several reports suggesting that there may be a potential beneficial effect from their use in diabetes.
Recently, investigators from several institutions in Italy in collaboration with Camillo Ricordi, M.D., Director of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, have reported on the case of an 8-year-old boy with new onset type 1 diabetes who was treated with vitamin D and high-dose Omega-3 fatty acids. Data on glucose control, exogenous insulin requirements, and insulin production from the native pancreas up to 16 months following diabetes onset were recently published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences.
Upon diagnosis, the patient was hospitalized and an islet autoantibody test confirmed he had type 1 diabetes. Additional test results showed a low vitamin D level, and the patient was started on vitamin D supplementation on a daily basis.
At five months post-diagnosis, the patient’s metabolic control substantially improved and his insulin requirements were reduced. Treatment with high-dose Omega-3 fatty acids was then introduced as an anti-inflammatory strategy aimed at potentially halting progression of autoimmunity and further loss of beta cell function. No adverse effects related to high-dose Omega-3 therapy were reported. The patient also maintained a gluten-free, high-fiber diet.
At 16 months post-diagnosis, the patient’s blood glucose control remained excellent with a reported total daily dose of approximately 1.5 units of insulin, or 0.05 units per kg per day, compared to 0.39 units per kg per day at diagnosis. Levels of C-peptide also increased, indicating insulin production from the native pancreas, from 0.5 mg/ml at diagnosis (fasting) to 0.6 mg/ml (fasting) and 1.6 mg/ml (post-meal). Based on this data, the researchers propose that therapy with both high-dose Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D may have contributed to the preservation of beta cell function and warrants further investigation.
Jose A Jimenez MD
OCC Internal Medicine
Intensive Care Medicine