Those with type 1 diabetes appear to share a combination of genes, but there is an environmental trigger needed as well, such as infection with a virus or even diet and nutrition. Can diet trigger type 1 diabetes?
Scientists have found there must be one or more environmental triggers for type 1 diabetes to develop in those with a genetic predisposition. Although viruses may be the most likely trigger, there are studies on the effects of diet and nutrition as possible environmental triggers to type 1 diabetes.
What about Diet might Trigger Type 1 Diabetes? Possible diet and nutrition factors that scientist are looking at concerning type 1 diabetes are Vitamin D deficiency, gluten, infant formula and cow’s milk. Eating extra sweets has been determined not to be a cause of diabetes.
Vitamin D Deficiency. Type 1 diabetes appears to be more prevalent in areas of the world where there are very cold winters. This type of diabetes also develops more frequently in winter months. Although viruses may be the culprit in this situation, scientists are also studying the possibility of Vitamin D deficiency as a dietary trigger for type 1 diabetes.
During winter months, we are less exposed to sunlight, which helps the body produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for growth, including in many areas of the body which have immune system functions. Without adequate Vitamin D, the immune system may be weakened. This may be a factor in the body’s immune process attacking insulin-producing cells in the pancreas leading to the development of type 1 diabetes in genetically susceptible individuals.
Studies of rats showed that those with Vitamin D deficiency developed type 1 diabetes at an earlier age than those not deficient. Another study showed that Vitamin D supplements offered some protection against the development of type 1 diabetes in those at risk.
Breast Feeding/Infant Formula/Cow’s Milk. The effects of breast-feeding, the use of infant formulas and the introduction of cow’s milk on type 1 diabetes has been studied extensively. It used to be believed that breast-feeding offered some protection from the development of type 1 diabetes in those with genetic risk, but that is not the case.
Breast-feeding is still the best way to give nutrition to a growing infant, but it does not protect against type 1 diabetes. Scientists have discovered that the early introduction of cow’s milk and solid foods is more likely to trigger type 1 diabetes than for breast-feeding to protect against it. Also, infants who are breast-fed may not get adequate amounts of Vitamin D.
The studies show that certain antibodies bind to the insulin in cow’s milk which may later trigger type 1 diabetes. The incidence of type 1 diabetes is greater in those who were given cow’s milk and solid foods before four months of age. New research recommends exclusively breast-feeding for the entire first year of life with the addition of Vitamin D supplements.
Gluten and Type 1 Diabetes. Scientists have found that celiac disease is twenty times more prevalent in those with type 1 diabetes than in the general population. Celiac disease is a digestive condition where gluten triggers an immune reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine.
It is not believed that one disorder causes the other. Scientists are trying to see if there is a shared genetic risk for both celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.
A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that a gluten-free diet did not affect autoantibody response in the development of type 1 diabetes, but did show that insulin production was increased for those following a gluten-free diet. For those at risk, gluten does not start an autoimmune response for type 1 diabetes according to this study.
Can Diet Trigger Type 1 Diabetes? So far, studies have not proven a specific dietary factor as a trigger for type 1 diabetes. If you or your child is at risk for developing type 1 diabetes, it is always best to follow the advice of a qualified physician in order to reduce the risk of triggering type 1 diabetes from dietary triggers.
THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT MEANT TO TREAT OR DIAGNOSE ANY ILLNESS OR DISEASE.
Janice H. Dada, MPH, RD, CSSD, CDE, CHES; Nutrition and Type 1 Diabetes – Can Diet Reduce Risk?; Today’s Dietician; 12.8.36
Jukka Karjalainen, M.D., et al.; A Bovine Albumin Peptide as a Possible Trigger of Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus; The New England Journal of Medicine
Graziano Barera, MD; Occurrence of Celiac Disease after Onset of Type 1 Diabetes: A 6-Year Prosepctive Longitudinal Study; Pediatrics
Matteo-Rocco Pastore, et al.; Six Months of Gluten-Free Diet Do Not Influence Autoantibody Titers, but Improve Insulin Secretion in Subjects at High Risk for Type 1 Diabetes; The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism; 88.1.162-5