Published: Sat, September 22, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

High gluten diet in pregnancy ups childs diabetes risk

High gluten diet in pregnancy ups childs diabetes risk

Bread, pasta and cereal are staples of people's everyday diets, but a new study suggests that women who have a high gluten diet during pregnancy could increase the risk of their children suffering from type 1 diabetes later down the line.

Unlike the Type 2 form of diabetes, Type 1 has nothing to do with lifestyle and is irreversible and until now, scientists have thought of Type 1 diabetes as an unavoidable condition that has more to do with genetics than any environmental factor. They found that the child's risk of type 1 diabetes increased proportionally with the mother's gluten intake during pregnancy (per 10 gram per day increase).

Previous studies among animals have shown a gluten-free maternal diet during pregnancy nearly "completely prevented" type 1 diabetes among offspring, experts said.

Children of women with the highest gluten intake had double the risk compared with those with the lowest intake.

The researchers tracked the mothers and their children for a number of years after their children were born to see how many children developed type 1 diabetes.

The researchers, from Denmark, Iceland and the U.S., stressed that they had not proved the link and that more studies were needed before women should alter their diets.

Previous studies on maternal gluten and type 1 diabetes risk in children have produced conflicting results, Antvorskov and co-authors noted.

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"Finding a link between eating more gluten during pregnancy and a higher risk of type 1 diabetes in babies is interesting, but importantly, this research does not show that gluten causes type 1 diabetes", Lucy Trelfa, research communications officer at Diabetes UK, said.

Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley and gives food a chewy texture and elasticity during the baking process. "These properties make them more immunogenic than other dietary proteins, which are efficiently hydrolyzed into single amino acids or dipeptides or tripeptides".

The mechanisms that might explain this association are not known, but could include increased inflammation or increased gut permeability (so-called leakiness of the gut), they write. By 2016, 247 cases of type 1 diabetes had been recorded.

In addition, the study did not determine whether mothers who ate high amounts of gluten also fed their children high-gluten diets, or whether children were exposed to gluten through breast milk, Miettinen and Virtanen said.

"However, doctors, researchers, and the public should be aware of the possibility that consuming large amounts of gluten might be harmful, and that further studies are needed to confirm or rule out these findings, and to explore possible underlying mechanisms".

The study authors as well as the editorial writers reported having no relevant financial relationships.

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