Giving daily oral insulin pills to children who are at risk for type 1 diabetes may actually help stop them from developing the metabolic disease, says a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Medpage Today reports.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas produces little to no insulin, a hormone that is needed to regulate blood sugar. In most people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called pancreatic islets. This action eventually triggers the disease.

In a double-blind clinical study called Pre-POINT, researchers studied 25 children from Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom and the United States considered to be at a genetically high risk of type 1 diabetes. The children were given oral doses each day of either insulin or a placebo pill for 3 to 18 months. The insulin dosages were increased over the course of the study.

In general, researchers found that the immune systems of the kids given stepped-up dosages of insulin responded in a way that stopped the development of type 1 diabetes.

Researchers said these findings support the need for further trials to determine whether oral insulin can stop type 1 diabetes from starting.

For more information about how type 1 diabetes works, click here.