Timing of first solid food linked to diabetes

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Infants who receive their first solid food either early or late – before the age of 4 months or at 6 months or older – are at increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes, new research suggests.

Type 1 diabetes is on the rise worldwide, with some of the fastest increases among children under 5. Infants' diets are one major area of research into the origins of the disease, according to the background information in the study appearing online July 8 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study looked at infants in the Denver area who had first-degree relatives with type 1 diabetes. Infants who were given solid food for the first time either earlier or later than other infants were at increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Early exposure to fruit and late exposure to rice or oats were associated with an increased risk, while breast-feeding when wheat or barley was introduced appeared to be associated with a reduced risk, according to a journal news release.

"Our data suggest that multiple foods/antigens play a role and that there is a complex relationship between the timing and type of infant food exposures and [type 1 diabetes] risk," wrote Brittni Frederiksen, at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado, and colleagues.

Although the study found an association between the age of introduction of solid foods and development of type 1 diabetes in higher-risk children, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

"In summary, there appears to be a safe window in which to introduce solid foods between 4 and 5 months of age; solid foods should be introduced while continuing to breast-feed to minimize [type 1 diabetes] risk in genetically susceptible children. These findings should be replicated in a larger [study] for confirmation," the authors concluded.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about type 1 diabetes.

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