Baby’s first foods affect diabetes risk

By Sheryl Kay • Published: October 3rd, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

With every generation, the number of people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes has continued to increase. Typically diagnosed during childhood, Type 1 diabetes translates into a lifetime of insulin injections and many associated health issues.

But new research shows there may be a simple way to stem the tide.

Just published in JAMA Pediatrics, the study looked at the health records of almost 2,000 children ages 7 and up. All were identified either because they had a genetic predisposition to diabetes, or had a parent or a sibling with the disease.

Of the sample the researchers looked at, 53 children did indeed have Type 1 diabetes. The investigators then looked at the early dietary records of all the children and noticed several significant associations with the introduction of solid foods and the onset of diabetes.

First, the findings indicated that 28 children with diabetes consumed their first solid foods before the age of four months, almost doubling the risk of developing Type 1 diabetes compared to children who had no solid foods until four months old. But getting too late of a start on solids posed a risk, too. Babies who were not fed solids until after they were six months old had a tripled risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. This seems to indicate that the optimal time to start baby on solids is between four and six months of age.

Another interesting finding? Infants who were breastfed while being introduced to wheat products were half as likely to develop diabetes as babies who were already off breast milk when they first sampled wheat.

Although more testing needs to be done to determine exactly why these optimum scenarios help prevent the occurrence of diabetes, the researchers did say that the immune system is undergoing major changes during that time of a child’s life. Mom’s breast milk may provide one added layer of protection.