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January 20, 2001

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Fort Lawn, South Carolina, USA:

In answer to question that was asked a few months back concerning diabetes and baby formula, you responded that there was no link. However, in a recent issue of American Baby magazine, it mentions a study that said there could be a link if there was a family history. I breast fed my daughter for seven months and supplemented with formula. She is now a year and drinking formula. My brother has type 1 diabetes, and I am wondering if this, along with giving her formula, has increased her chances of developing the disease.


The position at the moment however is that there have been recent studies in Finland that have shown a link between early exposure to cow’s milk and the incidence of type 1A (autoimmune) diabetes. Similar studies in New Zealand have made the same claim, but have shown that the link is to a specific bovine milk protein called beta casein and only to one variant of it, which not all cows have. In another U.S. national study, DAISY (Diabetes and other AutoImmune Syndromes in Youth), aimed at defining the environmental factors that trigger the autoimmune process in susceptible people, no such link has so far been observed. Since your daughter has no first degree relative with this kind of diabetes, and assuming that she is of Caucasian stock, then her chances of getting this form of diabetes before she is 20 would be very little different from normal which is about 0.4%.


[Editor’s comment: Search this website for a lot more discussion of this topic.