Researchers looking into variance in when solid food is introduced into the diet have found that starting solid food before 4 months or after 6 months after birth is associated with increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
The research was carried out by the University of Colorado Denver. Researchers monitored over 1,800 babies that were genetically at higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes. A higher risk of developing type 1 was determined as either having a close family member with type 1 diabetes or having presence of genetic markers, such as higher levels of specific antibodies.
The research team found that the risk of developing type 1 diabetes doubled if solid food was introduced before 4 months after birth and trebled if solid food was brought in after 6 months. Furthermore, the study showed that when it came to gluten being introduced, maintaining breastfeeding during that time had a protective effect against the risk of type 1 diabetes.
Researcher Prof Jill Norris explained that the early introduction of foreign foods (foods a baby is as yet unaccustomed to) into an immature gut could trigger an autoimmune response. The increased risk of late introduction of solid food could be caused if breastfeeding is stopped at the point of introduction of solid food but further research would be needed to clearly investigate the mechanisms involved.
Solid food is any food aside from breast milk or infant formula, including purees and cereals. In the US, the recommendation is to introduce solid food between 4 and 6 months, whereas in the UK, the NHS advises solid food to be introduced at around 6 months in addition to breastfeeding.

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