Breastfed children are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes, study claims

Breastfed children are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes, but those who drink a lot of cow’s milk are at greater risk, study claims

  • An early diet of fruit or gluten may also increase the risk of disease, experts say
  • Scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have reviewed 152 previous papers
  • Those who were breastfed for at least six to 12 months were 61 percent less likely to suffer










Breastfed children are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes, but those who drink a lot of cow’s milk are at greater risk, a study suggests.

An early diet of fruits or gluten — such as grains, bread and pasta — may also increase their risk of disease, researchers warn.

Scientists have reviewed 152 previous papers examining how 27 dietary factors influenced the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

This includes foods eaten by the mother during pregnancy, foods consumed in infancy and childhood, and the impact of breastfeeding.

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, preventing the body from making enough of the hormone to regulate blood sugar levels.

Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the heart, eyes, feet and kidneys and shorten life expectancy.

Scientists reviewed 152 previous papers examining how 27 dietary factors influenced the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. This includes foods eaten by the mother during pregnancy, foods consumed in infancy and infancy, and the impact of breastfeeding

What causes the attack is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of a genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger such as a virus or food.

The number of diagnoses among young people is increasing by an estimated 3.4 percent each year.

The new analysis, presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, suggests that babies who are breastfed for longer and those who are exclusively breastfed are less likely to develop the disease.

Those who were breastfed for at least six to 12 months were 61 percent less likely to suffer than those who were breastfed for a shorter period.

And those who were fed only breast milk for the first two to three months were 31 percent less likely to develop the condition than those who were not exclusively breastfed.

The researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, say that breastfeeding promotes the maturation of babies’ immune systems and improves their gut bacteria.

What is the NHS advice for breastfeeding mothers?

The NHS guidelines for having your baby latch on to your breast are as follows:

  • Hold your baby close to you with the nose at the level of the nipple
  • Wait for your baby to open his mouth very wide with his tongue down. You can encourage them to do this by gently stroking their upper lip
  • Bring your baby to your breast
  • Your baby tilts its head back and comes first to your breast chin

Remember to support your baby’s neck, but not to hold the back of the head.

They should then be able to take a big bite of breast. Your nipple should go up to the palate.

In contrast, higher consumption of cow’s milk and dairy products such as butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream before age 15 was associated with a higher risk of type 1 diabetes.

For example, those who drank at least two to three 200ml glasses of cow’s milk a day were 78 percent more likely to develop the disease than those who consumed less.

Early introduction of cow’s milk into the diet was also associated with a higher risk.

Those who started drinking cow’s milk when they were two or three months old were 31 percent less likely to develop the disease than those who started consuming it earlier.

Subsequent introduction of gluten into the diet halved the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Babies who started eating gluten-containing foods, such as cereal, bread, pastries, cookies and pasta after 3 to 6 months, were 54 percent less likely to develop the disease than those introduced with the food earlier.

Waiting until a child was four to six months old to introduce fruit into their diet was also associated with a 53 percent reduction in risk.

The study authors say it’s not clear whether delaying the introduction of these foods directly protects against the disease or whether the infants benefit from being breastfed for longer.

There was no clear association between type 1 diabetes and age at the introduction of formula or with meat and vegetable consumption.

Nor were there any associations between a mother’s intake of gluten and vitamin D during pregnancy and her child’s risk of developing the condition.

Study leader Anna-Maria Lampousi said: ‘Learning more about the causes is key to preventing type 1 diabetes — and its complications.

‘Identifying foods and other environmental factors that can be modified would be particularly valuable.

‘The strongest findings were for the beneficial effects of breastfeeding and the harmful effects of early introduction to cow’s milk, gluten and fruit.

“However, most of the evidence to date is of limited quality and further high-quality research is needed before specific dietary recommendations can be made.”

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