According to a symposium titled "Nature vs. Nurture in Type 1 Diabetes" at last month's ADA Conference, you can forget this conflict: It's both!
Latest research results show that the "concordance rate" of Type 1 in twins is only 25 to 50%, leading to lots of speculation about how environmental factors affect poeple who are genetically predisposed to the disease. And what factors could those be? Why, baby cereal, of course!
A speaker on "gut permeability" introduced the idea that the timing of the introduction of cereal into an infant's diet may increase exposure to antigens that provoke an immune response. In other words, giving baby cereal too early to an undeveloped gut may help kick in Type 1 diabetes in children who have a "genetic tendency."
As a mother of three, I do declare: AAACCCKKK! As if it weren't stressful enough deciding what and when to feed your baby, now you can get your own gut in a knot over this. I vividly remember standing in the grocery aisle with all those boxes of Cream of Wheat, Rice Cereal, Oatmeal Cereal, Banana-Rice-Oatmeal Cereal, Single Grain, Whole Grain, Organically Grown Mixed Grain, etc., etc., etc. She's only 4 months, but she's soooo hungry...
And those who have children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes already get to plague their guts with guilt over their introduction of baby cereal back then: Did I do it too early? Ye Gads.
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The only saving grace with this theory is that two new studies will hopefully soon reveal whether there's a shred of validity to it. The international BabyDIAB study is providing new data on first-degree relatives of people with Type 1 diabetes from around the world. And the sweeping US TrialNet study is looking at relatives of people with Type 1 diabetes, focusing on environmental data and other risk factors.
Is baby cereal the culprit? Another generation may have been fed and coddled by the time we find out.