The effects of supplementation will be tested on children and adults newly diagnosed and those with long-duration type 1 diabetes to assess the effects of early and late interventions.
Scientists from the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine plan to enrol 56 adults and children in the study, named POSEIDON (Pilot study of Omega-3 and Vitamin D High Doses in T1D).
Both newly diagnosed participants and those more than six months post-diagnosis will be eligible. They will take either vitamin D alone or in combination with omega-3 fatty acids for one year, followed by a year's observation period.
All the participants will receive insulin treatment and receive advice on dietary control during the study. During the observation period the researchers will measure long-term effects on blood sugar levels as well as any increases in insulin production, among other outcomes.
Both vitamin D and omega-3 supplementation have been shown to have protective effects on insulin-producing cells. The researchers hope to build upon these findings.
"The role of omega-3/vitamin D in preserving beta cell function in pediatric subjects with type 1 diabetes warrants further investigation," said study sponsor Camillo Ricordi, M.D, Director of the DRI. "If combination omega-3 and vitamin D therapy is able to delay progression or halt autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes, this is expected to result in retention of insulin secretion, minimal use of exogenous insulin, and improved metabolic control thus minimizing the risks associated with unstable blood glucose levels."
Dr Ricordi hopes that if the findings yield positive results, they could be used not just to help people with type 1 diabetes but also other autoimmune diseases.