Type 1 Diabetes in Children: Blame the Baby Cereal?

According to a symposium titled “Nature vs. Nurture in Type 1 Diabetes” at last month’s ADA Conference, you can forget this conflict: It’s both!

Baby_cereal_1 Latest research results show that the “concordance rate” of Type 1 in twins is only 25 to 50%, leading to lots of speculation about how environmental factors affect poeple who are genetically predisposed to the disease. And what factors could those be? Why, baby cereal, of course!

A speaker on “gut permeability” introduced the idea that the timing of the introduction of cereal into an infant’s diet may increase exposure to antigens that provoke an immune response. In other words, giving baby cereal too early to an undeveloped gut may help kick in Type 1 diabetes in children who have a “genetic tendency.”

As a mother of three, I do declare: AAACCCKKK! As if it weren’t stressful enough deciding what and when to feed your baby, now you can get your own gut in a knot over this. I vividly remember standing in the grocery aisle with all those boxes of Cream of Wheat, Rice Cereal, Oatmeal Cereal, Banana-Rice-Oatmeal Cereal, Single Grain, Whole Grain, Organically Grown Mixed Grain, etc., etc., etc. She’s only 4 months, but she’s soooo hungry…

And those who have children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes already get to plague their guts with guilt over their introduction of baby cereal back then: Did I do it too early? Ye Gads.

The only saving grace with this theory is that two new studies will hopefully soon reveal whether there’s a shred of validity to it. The international BabyDIAB study is providing new data on first-degree relatives of people with Type 1 diabetes from around the world. And the sweeping US TrialNet study is looking at relatives of people with Type 1 diabetes, focusing on environmental data and other risk factors.

Is baby cereal the culprit? Another generation may have been fed and coddled by the time we find out.

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5 Responses

  1. Jo
    Jo July 11, 2006 at 9:11 am | | Reply

    I tell everyone “read the labels” and now it looks like it’s necessary for baby food too. Gal at work is due in Sept and has genstational diabetes … I have been stressing to keep it in check or she won’t get rid of it after birth — now I have to give her this article too! Maybe my sister had it right when she made her own ceral for her two?

  2. Matthew Holt
    Matthew Holt July 11, 2006 at 2:26 pm | | Reply

    Amy–off topic. I’m trying to email you but your email keeps rejecting me saying I’m using non-Latin script. Can you call me 650 218 4002 or emaiil me…thanks-matthew

  3. Diabetes Post
    Diabetes Post July 11, 2006 at 6:31 pm | | Reply

    Very interesting posting. I have read about this somewhere else and yes, it is almost impossible right now to isolate the factors involved in this. The ethics involved in future studies to isolate the factor will need to address the risks as it may be putting many babies at risk for future diabetes.

  4. ksc
    ksc July 12, 2006 at 7:18 am | | Reply

    I was asked to avoid cow’s milk for my daughter. This kind of information makes me wonder about how many factors could possibly be involved…while I’d like to be able to avoid all of them, it seems impossible! Another article I read suggested that emotional stress plays a role, yet another suggested dioxin exposure (a la Love Canal). Is Erin Brockovich in the house???

  5. B
    B July 12, 2006 at 9:40 am | | Reply

    You just never know. No genetic “history” (check), relaxed pregnancy (check), stay at home, low stress :) mom (check), breastfed until 15 months (check), no “solid” food including baby cereal and most certainly cows milk until 9 and 12 months (check). Still my son was diagnosed with Type1D at 20 months. The list of environmental factors just keeps getting longer, combine that with “predisposition” and the fact is we may never know.

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