Infant Probiotics and Lower Type 1 Diabetes Risk

Infant Probiotics and Lower Type 1 Diabetes Risk But association was only found in those with the highest genetic risk of the disease
WebMD News from HealthDay

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Adding probiotics -- good bacteria -- to an infant's feedings in the first month of life may reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes for those genetically predisposed to getting the disease, new research suggests.

Supplementing with probiotics later in infancy didn't seem to confer the same benefit, the researchers noted.

"Early probiotic exposure during the first 27 days is associated with a decreased risk of type 1 diabetes among those who have the highest genetic risk of type 1 diabetes," said lead researcher Ulla Uusitalo, an associate professor in the department of pediatric epidemiology at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

However, Uusitalo noted that because of the study's design, the researchers "cannot make a conclusion about causality." But she stressed that the association was so strong, these findings warrant further study.

The study was published in the Nov. 9 issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It develops when the body's immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, according to JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). This leaves people without enough insulin to meet the body's needs. Insulin is a hormone that helps cells use sugar from foods as fuel.

What triggers type 1 diabetes is unclear. A number of genes are suspect, but experts believe an environmental trigger also plays a role. One possible trigger is an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut (the microbiome) may help fuel the autoimmune attack, the researchers said.

To explore this idea further, the researchers looked at an ongoing prospective study from six medical centers -- three in the United States and three in Europe. The final study sample included nearly 7,500 children between 4 and 10 years old.

Blood samples were taken every three months from age 3 months to 48 months to detect signs of type 1 diabetes. Samples were taken every six months after that.

Parents completed questionnaires and food diaries to detail infant feeding and probiotic supplement use from birth to 3 months. Mothers provided information on their diets during pregnancy as well.

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