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May 21, 2001

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Hugo, Minnesota, USA:

In a recent answer, you indicated that, in addition to the one TRIGR reference you provided1, there are other studies showing a link between diabetes and cows' milk. Could you please provide some additional references? I'm also interested to know if any of the studies included children past infancy. My son is now 15 months old, and we have substituted soy products for dairy products until now. Would the immune response to cow's milk be different once a child is past infancy? 1A Finnish Trial to Reduce IDDM in the Genetically at Risk Study (TRIGR). There were differences in antibody response to bovine insulin during the first year of life, but no change in T-cell response. This study is reported in the October 2000 issue of the journal Diabetes.


This has been a difficult question to answer categorically because it has to be a prospective study involving large numbers and with a clear definition of what exactly is meant by ‘early exposure to cow’s milk proteins’. Just to make it harder, the Masai in Kenya are probably the people most dependant on cow protein for nutrition, and they have no diabetes.

For additional references you may need the help of a medical librarian, but you could also use PubMed, searching under ‘cow’s milk and autoimmune diabetes’ and of course the bibliography with each paper will lead to more.

Ellioitt. RB. et al. Diabetalogia 42:292,1999
Paronen.J. et al. Diabetes, vol 49 No 10
Kimpimaki.T. et al. Diabetalogia 44:63,2001.
Couper.J. et al. Diabetes, vol 48 No 11

I know of no studies that have specifically studied the impact of exposure to cow’s milk after infancy. It would be very cumbersome to perform convincingly.