A new study suggests that late introduction of gluten in the diets of infants might increase the risk of type 1 diabetes.
It is worth noting that the findings can only give clues and cannot give any conclusive evidence that gluten is linked with type 1 diabetes development.
The study was carried out by the TEDDY Study Group. TEDDY stands for The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young. It is a long-running study that is being run to find out more clues as to what may trigger type 1 diabetes to develop.
There are many possible causes being looked into by the TEDDY group and how the introduction of gluten may affect type 1 diabetes risk is one of the factors being studied.
In the latest study, the researchers reviewed 7,563 young children at high genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes. The children taking part were from Finland, Germany, Sweden and USA. As part of the study, blood samples were collected every three months. The study also recorded when the infants had gluten first introduced into their diets.
The blood samples were analysed for insulin autoantibodies. When these insulin autoantibodies are found to be persistently present in the blood, that indicates a higher risk that type 1 diabetes may develop late in life (either later in childhood or in adulthood).
The results of the study showed that the later that gluten was introduced into the infants’ diets, the higher the risk of developing insulin autoantibodies. For each one-month delay in introducing gluten there was a 5% increase in risk of developing the autoantibodies. Children that had gluten introduced before four months of age, showed a 32% lower risk of developing the autoantibodies.
As stated earlier, this kind of study can only give clues as to what may reduce risk of type 1 diabetes. The findings indicate that gluten may be involved, however, there could be other reasons for why early gluten introduction conferred a lower risk.
For example, infants given gluten earlier may be given more of less of something else in the diet that may be a factor. Therefore, this study produces interesting findings that warrant follow up with further studies to test whether the age of gluten introduction is significant or not.
The study is published online by the Diabetes Care journal.

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