Type 1 Precursor Linked to Intestinal Illness in Infancy
New research shows a connection between gastro illness during infancy and islet autoimmunity, a precursor to type 1 diabetes. The findings showed that infants exposed to the gluten containing grains wheat and barley during infancy showed the increased risk.
As a part of The Diabetes Auto-Immunity Study in the Young (DAISY), researchers conducted illness interviews with more than 1,700 children of which nearly 1,200 had no family history of type 1 diabetes. Gastrointestinal illness was common among children who were classified with persistent islet autoimmunity (IA), but only in those exposed to gluten containing grains, such as wheat and barley, as infants. Persistent IA was detected in 109 subjects. Those exposed to the grains at a younger age were more at risk of developing persistent IA.
A Growing Problem
The National Institutes of Health reports that type 1 diabetes is rising worldwide, particularly in young children. According to a report in August by the Institute of Diabetes Research,
"Since type 1 diabetes is preceded by autoimmunity to islet antigens, there must be a consequent increase in the incidence of islet autoimmunity in young children or a more rapid rate of progression to diabetes once islet autoimmunity initiates."
The debate whether this increase is caused by genetic predisposition or environmental factors or both still remains. While researchers continue to explore the gut-health connection and diabetes, the Institute of Diabetes Research says their findings "suggest that recent increasing incidence of type 1 diabetes in young children could be due to weakening of mechanisms that normally regulate autoimmune destruction of islet beta cells."
Other researchers hypothesize the increase in hygienic practices have somehow altered gut health. More research in both of these avenues needs to be completed for science to have a definitive answer on the cause or causes of type 1 diabetes.