Gluten free diet may reduce risk of type 1 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on May 19, 2014

Scientists believe that a gluten free diet during pregnancy could reduce the risk of children going on to develop type 1 diabetes.

The researchers from the University of Copenhagen say that new experiments on mice show there is a correlation between the health of baby mice and their mother’s diet.


A gluten free diet during pregnancy could reduce the risk of unborn children developing type 1 diabetes

And although experiments on mice are not necessarily applicable to humans, in this case the scientific team are optimistic that there is a chance that type 1 diabetes could be prevented through dietary change.

‘Preliminary tests show that a gluten free diet in humans has a positive effect on children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. We therefore hope that a gluten free diet during pregnancy and lactation may be enough to protect high risk children from developing [the disease] later in life,’ said Assistant Professor Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

According to co-writer on the study, Professor Axel Kornerup, intervention makes a lot of sense because type 1 diabetes develops early in life. ‘We also know from existing experiments that a gluten free diet has a beneficial effect on type 1 diabetes,’ he added.

The experiment showed that the diet changed the intestinal bacteria in both the mother mice and their pups. The intestinal flora plays an important role for the development of the immune system as well as the development of type 1 diabetes. The study suggests that the protective effect of a gluten free diet can be ascribed to certain intestinal bacteria.

In mice, onset of type 1 diabetes usually occurs around 13 weeks of age. But the offspring of mothers who were fed a gluten free diet did not develop the condition, even though they themselves ate a normal diet that contained gluten.

The advantage of the gluten free diet is that the only side effect seems to be the inconvenience of having to avoid gluten, but there is no certain evidence of the effect or side effects.

The team would now like to been able to start a large scale clinical test to either prove or disprove their hypothesis about the gluten free diet. ‘If we find out how gluten or certain intestinal bacteria modify the immune system and the beta cell physiology, this knowledge can be used to develop new treatments,’ said Hansen.

Study co-author Professor Karsten Buschard of the Bartholin Institute at Rigshospitalet in Denmark, confirmed that understanding how gluten or specific intestinal bacteria changes the immune system and beta cell physiology could open the doors to new treatments for type 1 diabetes.

‘This new study beautifully substantiates our research into a gluten free diet as an effective weapon against type 1 diabetes,’ she said.



The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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