Going Gluten-FreeMay 25, 2011

Does the Gluten-Free Diet Lower a Baby's Risk of Type 1 Diabetes?

Comments (5)

Posted by Alicia Woodward

A new study published in the journal Diabetes Care reports that the gluten-free diet in the first year of life does not lower an infant’s risk of developing childhood diabetes. This proved true for babies at higher risk of the disease due to family history or genes. In addition, researchers said they found no evidence that delaying ingestion of gluten for a year increases the risk of a child developing celiac disease, as some earlier research has suggested.

In this study, German researchers followed 150 babies with at least one parent or sibling who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Half the children were given gluten for the first time at six months. The rest were not given gluten until after their first birthday.

When the children turned three years of age, three of those who’d started eating gluten at six months had developed type 1 diabetes. Four children in the delayed gluten group developed diabetes. These results indicated that delaying the introduction of gluten for a year doesn’t seem to reduce the risk of diabetes, nor does it cause harm.

Parents should consult with their pediatrician about the timing of introducing solid foods, including gluten, to their babies.

Celiac disease is linked to type 1 diabetes. Both diseases are autoimmune conditions that are inherited and genetically linked. People with type 1 diabetes are at greater risk for contracting celiac disease than the general population. Celiac disease occurs in 1 in every 10 people with type 1 diabetes, as compared with 1 in 100 cases in the general population.


Comments (5)

I found this study interesting, as my 12-year-old daughter is a Type-1 Diabetic and has been for two years. She consumed gluten for the first eight years of her life. Genetically, she is definitely predisposed to the condition. My mother's sister has it; my father and his mother had it; my husband's uncle on his father's side has it, and my husband's grandfather on his mother's side may have had it (I can't remember, for sure).

What I find telling is that NONE of these scientists seem to ask this question: "Can complete and lifelong avoidance of gluten prevent allergies of all kinds, type-1 diabetes and other autoimmune conditions?

I have six kids. In 2002, I figured out I had celiac disease and have been gluten-free ever since. I did this without a diagnosis, and found immediate and long-lasting relief from a myriad of health issues. Since then, I have become so sensitive to gluten that simply touching wheat flour is enough to give me severe abdominal pain.

In 2005, my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease and has been gluten-free ever since. In 2006, we took gluten out of the diets of our five children (without waiting for a doctor to "crown" any of them with an official diagnosis of celiac disease). The changes in overall health and disposition have been nothing short of amazing. Here are a few of the positive results: one to two colds a year, NO ear infections, a bout of "stomach flu" once every three or four years, as opposed to at least once a year.

In 2009, we had another baby, and she has never eaten gluten (nor has our five-year-old). Neither one of them has ever had an ear infection, colds last for a few days and symptoms are relatively mild. Trips to the doctor's office for them (and the rest of the kids, now) are generally for nothing more than well-child checkups.

I am not a scientist, I am not a doctor, but I have eight subjects (including myself) that I can study closely and for a long period of time. I also have many friends and a few relatives on gluten-free diets.

Scientific studies certainly have their value, but they also have their limitations, and I'm continually amazed by the number of people who are willing to bet their health and the health of their children on such studies, and on the results of medical tests.

Why are so many people afraid to take charge of their health? Why are they convinced that a doctor, who spends very little time with a patient's body, knows more about that body than the person who lives in it? Why are they willing to suffer for years with debilitating symptoms, just because a test for celiac disease, which Dr. Kenneth Fine says should be used to rule IN celiac disease not rule it OUT, is negative?

Posted by: Cheryl R | May 28, 2011 3:14 PM    Report this comment

Although I agree with many of the comments above, I have to draw that line at children going 100% gluten free unless there is evidence of CD or gluten intolerance. Of course there is no way of knowing that there is a problem unless they ingest gluten. At the same time, there is no way of knowing that they do not have gluten issues if they do not ingest gluten.

Why restrict a child from class snacks, birthday cakes, and pizza unless you know there is a problem? I see nothing in any research that says that gluten is the cause of CD - it is the trigger. The two are not the same. Just eating gluten cannot cause anyone to become Celiac or gluten intolerat unless there are other factors in play.

Until we can test for the other factors with reasonable certainty, simply removing gluten from the diet of our children may prevent some from developing the damage caused by CD, but it will also unnecessarily restrict many others for no good reason. Let's start with frequent testing of children who may be at risk.

Posted by: Catherine K | May 27, 2011 3:13 PM    Report this comment

This is an important question that will take many studies to sort out. In my reading, I have seen references to gluten sensitivity being controlled by 12 genes and type I diabetes being controlled by 15 genes. These conditions have 6 genes in common. Any decent study will start with the mother's gluten free diet throughout the entire pregnancy and as already been mentioned a low gluten diet subject should be excluded from any results. As any gluten free person knows, it only takes a tiny bit of gluten intake once a month to skew the entire clinical picture. It is possible that some cases of TID will develop regardless of being gluten free or not but we must keep in mind the other 100 or so conditions related to gluten and people with TID are at greater risk for all of those than the general population. For more info on prenatal nutrition and genetic expression, search agouti mice.

Posted by: Daniel S | May 27, 2011 6:14 AM    Report this comment

I agree with the comment above. It would be very interesting and I believe very fruitful, if a study were to be conducted looking at a cohort that refrained from consuming any gluten. Why doesn't center like the Joselin Diabetes Center perform one with this design? I don't understand!

Posted by: margaret S | May 26, 2011 10:34 AM    Report this comment

This study is ridiculous! 30% of the parents involved admitted to not being strict with the g/f diet....and anyone following a g/f diet knows it must be 100% to be effective. I'd like to see a study where genetically predisposed kids are NEVER given gluten. Proactive prevention and common sense are the key to optimal health and well being.

Posted by: commonsense | May 26, 2011 9:14 AM    Report this comment

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