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June 27, 2002

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA:

Two of our three daughters have diabetes, but there is no history of type 1 diabetes in my family or my wife's. I did have a grandmother on my father's side that developed type 2 diabetes when she was 60. What can be causing this in our family? Is it genetic, or something environmental? If it's environmental, what can we do about it?


The absence of any family history is the rule rather than the exception and the basis of this form of diabetes is partly genetic and partly environmental. These environmental factors are not yet known, though early exposure to cow’s milk has some supporters.

As to prevention, the only success to date has been a study in New Zealand school children where one of the B vitamins, nicotinamide, was claimed to have deferred insulin dependence in about 60% of antibody positive children for as long as eight years. The results of a similar more comprehensive study called ENDIT in Europe will be known quite soon.