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October 20, 2003

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Seattle, Washington, USA:

I have read a lot of recent research regarding possible triggers for type 1 diabetes in children (wheat protein, dairy, etc.), but I feel frustrated by it because I developed type 1 diabetes at the age of 30! I know there are many others who did not develop it as small children also, but it seems that 90% of the research news is focused on little kids. Are there any recent breakthroughs or research you're aware of that suggest any probable triggers for those of us who are hit with type 1 later in life? Any particular patterns evident?


Many years ago David Pyke in London showed from his studies on identical twins that there had to be environmental triggers for the development of clinical diabetes as well as genetic ones. Since that time, there have been many studies to try to define these factors and for the most part they have found little. The A1 Beta Casein component of cow’s milk seemed a strong possibility from studies in Finland, maternal vitamin D deprivation was another, and there were many studies that tried to show a link to adenovirus infections.

As you can imagine, it is much more difficult to carry out this research in adults than in small children because the variety of potential exposures is much greater. What is known though is that there are at least two forms of Late-onset Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood (LADA). in one, the pathology seems to be a particularly long drawn out progress of autoimmune destruction and in the other it is relatively acute. Genetically, these groups seem to be identical but the antibody response is different. As the intricacies of autoimmunity are further developed, more will certainly be learned, but in the meantime I would look for help in new advances in sensors that can be linked to insulin pumps, in transplant technology, and even in better insulin regimens with their linked