Can Early Cereal Feeding Cause Type 1 Diabetes?

Scientists have often speculated about the role various foods in the infant diet might play in the development of type 1 diabetes.

A recent study reports that children who were fed cereal either between birth and 3 months of age or after 7 months of age had increased islet cell autoimmunity (antibodies that attack the insulin-producing islets of the pancreas).

U.S. researchers studied 1,183 children from birth into childhood between 1994 and 2002. They examined the timeline of cereal exposure and the incidence of type 1 among the children, all of whom had either genetic markers for diabetes or a parent or sibling with type 1.

Blood samples were drawn to evaluate the presence of three types of antibodies at nine, 15, and 24 months and annually thereafter.

The researchers conclude that there may be a “window” between 4 and 6 months of age during which children can safely first be fed cereal. An initial exposure to cereal outside this “safe window” seems to increase the risk of developing islet cell autoimmunity in susceptible children.

-Journal of the American Medical Association, October 1, 2003

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