Researchers from the US have found that taking fish oil every day was able to slow the development of T1D-related nerve damage in mice, and even reversed the damage that had already occurred.
In the study, mice had their insulin-producing beta cells chemically destroyed to model type 1 diabetes, and were divided into different dietary groups. The first group were fed a standard diet for 16 weeks to see how neuropathy, or nerve damage, normally develops. The next group were fed a diet supplemented with fish oil immediately after the onset of diabetes, and continued for the entire 16 weeks to see how much of the neuropathy could be prevented. The third group were fed a standard diet for 8 weeks, followed by the fish oil diet for the remaining 8 weeks to see if the neuropathy that developed during the first 8 weeks could be reversed.
The diabetic mice fed a standard diet had significant nerve damage such as slow nerve conduction, a reduced ability to feel heat pain, and poor sensitivity of the skin and cornea. These complications were prevented to a large extent in the mice that were fed the fish oil for 16 weeks, and began to be reversed in mice that were fed the fish oil after neuropathy had already developed. The fish oil had no effect on blood glucose control.
Neuropathy is shown to affect around 60-70% of people with diabetes at some point in their lives (reference). Tight glucose control can help slow or delay the development of neuropathy, but this can be difficult to achieve and cannot prevent neuropathy completely. This study has shown that simply taking fish oil may be able slow or reverse the development of neuropathy.
The next steps for this research will be to further investigate the benefits of fish oil in preventing and reversing neuropathy, and whether or not it will prove to be successful when taken by people with type 1 diabetes. If successful, this low-cost supplement could help improve long-term quality of life for people with type 1 diabetes..
To read the full journal article, click here.