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September 10, 2004

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Dallas, Texas, USA:

A friend recently told me that there is a link between the ingestion of dairy products and the onset of type 1 diabetes in children. Is this true? What is the best source of information for us? Also, often, my son complains of his tummy hurting after ingesting food where milk was used. How common is this with children with diabetes? What options does one have as far as calcium intake for the child?


This is possible lactose intolerance. Celiac disease also is associated with such symptoms, including a higher incidence of lactose intolerance as well. A test using the transglutaminase antibody would be helpful to eliminate the possibility of celiac disease. Eliminating all milk/lactose products for a week and seeing if the stomach aches disappear, would also make lactose intolerance itself, from whatever cause, more likely. If lactose cannot be ingested, there are many milk products with lactase enzyme added so that the lactose is pre-digested and thus not a problem any longer. Alternatives would include soy and rice milk products.

If there is insufficient lactose and dairy intake, ensuring an adequate source of calcium is important as you suggest. Calcium supplements, such as Viactiv, are available and work very well.

Cow milk proteins have been linked to development of diabetes, but definitive proof has remained elusive. The benefits of exclusive breast feeding for the first 12 months of life and, thus, preventing or postponing type 1 diabetes, probably reflects nothing positive about breast feeding but rather than lack of early exposure to such cow’s milk proteins in some studies.