Gluten free diet doesn't lower diabetes risk
For babies at higher risk of childhood diabetes because of family history or genes, a gluten-free diet in the first year of life does not lower the chances of developing the disease.
The findings undercut previous studies, which suggests that babies exposed to gluten as part of their early diet might be more likely to develop type 1 diabetes later in childhood.
Gluten is the protein in wheat and other grains that makes dough elastic and gives bread its chewiness. In contrast with type 2 diabetes, which is usually a disease of adults and associated with old age or obesity, type 1 diabetes typically strikes children. Many of them likely inherited a genetic predisposition to the disease from their parents. Yet genes alone don't fully explain why people develop the condition. Other factors, such as environmental exposures, are thought to be necessary to trigger it.
To determine whether delaying the introduction of gluten in infants with a genetic risk of may reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes, researchers followed 150 babies with at least one parent or sibling who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes - marked by the death of islet cells in the pancreas that secrete the hormone insulin. The body requires insulin to convert dietary sugars into energy.
Half of the children were exposed to gluten in their diet for the first time at the age of six months. For the rest, exposure to the protein was delayed until after their first birthday. The different diets appeared to have no impact on the babies' ability to grow or gain weight.
By age 3 years, three children exposed to gluten early had developed type 1 diabetes, compared to four in the late-exposure group. Signs that the children had developed immune reactions to their own islet cells - a possible precursor to diabetes, especially in those with a genetic predisposition for the disorder - appeared in 11 children given gluten at six months of age, compared to 13 who first ate gluten when they were 12 months old.
Roughly 30 percent of parents said they did not strictly follow the diet plan. Still, results of the study show that although delaying the introduction of gluten into a baby's diet causes no harm, it doesn't appear to reduce the risk of diabetes or immune-related early-indicators of insulin problems.
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