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April 13, 2005

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Eugene, Oregon, USA:

My father has type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed at 18 years of age. I now have a daughter, four and a half months of age. Her pediatrician has told me that recent research shows that waiting at least six months before introducing solid foods reduces the risk of type 1. How strong is the research to support this?

Answer:

I do not think that those data are strong. Many things have “come and gone” to try to explain higher risks and incidence of type 1 diabetes, including, but not limited to, early use of cow’s milk, decreased sunshine exposure, immunizations, and our “cleaner” environment. All have been shown by high powered statistics to be BUNK. The truth is, for now, we don’t know. (I personally favor a bit of Darwinism: we now treat people with type 1 diabetes who no longer die but go on to live and reproduce and thus pass their “risk- of-diabetes-genes” to subsequent and more generations, who have children together, who pass on the higher-risk genes, etc. This is MY PET theory which has no direct scientific basis of which I am aware).

But, for decades and decades, pediatricians have preached that there is no benefit nutritionally or socially in introducing solid foods before four to six months. Cereals first, then vegetables (at seven months) and then starches, eggs, and meats (after six months.) Talk with your pediatrician as to his/her preferences.

DS