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December 9, 2002

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from :

My 13 year old daughter's just got diabetes, and we do have a family history of it, but I was wondering if I could have done something to prevent this or ward it off, for awhile at least?


Some years ago there was a study of the age of onset of type 1 diabetes in a large group of identical twins. It showed that although both twins nearly always had developed this type of diabetes by the age of 40 there were wide differences as to the age of onset. This led to the concept that whilst diabetes developed in those that were genetically susceptible there had also to be an environmental factor to trigger the autoimmune process in type 1A (autoimmune) which is very likely what your daughter has. So far we really don’t know what these could be.

Early exposure to cow’s milk enjoyed a lot of support especially in Scandinavia and New Zealand, but there have been other studies which discount this idea. There is evidence too that enteroviral infections particularly of Coxsackie strains are involved, but the difficulty in establishing this has been that the environmental trigger has to take effect years before clinical diabetes starts.

Incidentally, I think that it is more than likely that your daughter’s father and grandmother had a different form of diabetes called type 2, and, of course, if your daughter was significantly overweight it might be that she has type 2 as well where the environmental factors seem to be lack of exercise and too much ‘fast food’.