Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have shown a gluten free diet through pregnancy and lactation to have a dramatic effect in reducing type 1 diabetes incidence in the offspring of mice with the autoimmune condition.
Pregnant mice with non-obese diabetes were assigned either a gluten free or a control diet for the duration of the pregnancy through to the end of the lactation period. The mouse pups were monitored to see which developed type 1 diabetes or insulitis. Insulitis is an inflammation of the islet cells in the pancreas and is a hallmark of early type 1 diabetes.
The researchers found that the mouse pups from mothers on a gluten free diet had dramatically lower type 1 diabetes incidence. In explanation of the results, the researchers note that the key appears to be in how gluten affects bacteria in the gut, suggesting that a change in intestinal bacteria composition, as a result of gluten, increases the chances of an auto-immune response occurring.
Because mice have a different diet to humans, dietary interventions that work in mice are not guaranteed to work in humans. However, despite this note, the Danish researchers are optimistic that the theory has grounds for application in humans.
A previous study, by Denver researchers in 2013, showed that maintaining breastfeeding and withholding gluten until 6 months in human babies at risk of type 1 diabetes showed protective effects against the condition.

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