From Sunnyvale, California, USA:
I have had type 1 diabetes for 15 years. I have a healthy 15 month old son, who I switched him to soy formula last year as my endocrinologist suggested. (I breastfed and used formula. ) What is the status of the reports that linked cow's milk to onset of diabetes in high risk children/infants? Is this still true? Should I never give my son cow's milk? My son's pediatrician does not know the answer, and my endocrinologist won't give me an answer.
I can understand why your son's pediatrician and your endocrinologist are hedging on an answer to the cow's milk issue. It's because there is no definite answer as yet. As I'm sure you already know type 1A (autoimmune) diabetes is in part a genetic predisposition and in part triggered by some environmental factors.
The first suggestion that early exposure to cow's milk might be one of the latter came from Finland where the incidence of this form of diabetes is a little more than twice what it is in the USA. Their studies were carefully done and seemed valid and were supported by others, but, at the same time, other equally carefully done studies did not confirm the idea.
In DAISY for instance, which has involved large numbers in the USA, no such correlation has so far been found. A few years ago, it was suggested this disparity was explained on the grounds that the link was not to cow's milk generally but to the presence or absence of a specific sub-type of a cow's milk protein called beta casein, and in the USA, supermarket milk is very unlikely indeed to come from any one particular herd. This is even more true for formula.
Considering how undecided this point is, as well as the fact that your son has only about a 1:20 chance of developing type IA diabetes anyhow, I would have thought it safe to start cow's milk now, but if you wanted to be even more sure about this you might talk to your endocrinologist about getting him HLA tested which would tell you if he was a high risk candidate or even perhaps a protected one.
Original posting 2 Jun 2002
Posted to Research: Causes and Prevention
Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:34
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