Background: In Norway, cod liver oil is an important source of dietary vitamin D and the long-chain omega−3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, all of which have biological properties of potential relevance for the prevention of type 1 diabetes.

Objective: The main objective was to investigate whether the use of dietary cod liver oil or other vitamin D supplements, either by the mother during pregnancy or by the child during the first year of life, is associated with a lower risk of type 1 diabetes among children.

Design: We designed a nationwide case-control study in Norway with 545 cases of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes and 1668 population control subjects. Families were contacted by mail, and they completed a questionnaire on the frequency of use of cod liver oil and other vitamin D supplements and other relevant factors.

Results: Use of cod liver oil in the first year of life was associated with a significantly lower risk of type 1 diabetes (adjusted odds ratio: 0.74; 95% CI: 0.56, 0.99). Use of other vitamin D supplements during the first year of life and maternal use of cod liver oil or other vitamin D supplements during pregnancy were not associated with type 1 diabetes.

Conclusion: Cod liver oil may reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes, perhaps through the anti-inflammatory effects of long-chain n−3 fatty acids.

Health-e-Solutions comment: While this is not a cure for type 1 diabetes, certainly, the ability of both cod liver oil and other forms of supplemental vitamin D to prevent type 1 diabetes bears further investigation. Case-control studies are observational studies that take a group of people who are already diagnosed with a health condition (the cases) and compare them to a group of people who are not diagnosed with that condition (the controls). You cannot attribute cause and effect to any type of observational study. All you can say is that it has been observed that two things are found together more frequently than might be by chance. You cannot conclude why. That said, there is sufficient research available that associates vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids with reduced risk of type 1 diabetes (and many other health issues) that we believe they should be standard supplements in most peoples lifestyles. Consult with your medical professional to see if they are right for you.

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