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Mice on Gluten-Free Diet have Lower Risk of Diabetes Type-1

May 08, 2014 10:11 AM EDT

New study on mice shows that a gluten-free diet can reduce risk of  diabetes type-1.

Researchers at University of Copenhagen found that female mice who had diabetes that ate a gluten-free diet had a low risk of having babies with diabetes type-1.

Gluten-free diets exclude the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. The diet is recommended for people with celiac disease. Eliminating the protein from diet helps people control some of the symptoms associated with the disease.

Diabetes type-1 is when people have difficulty breaking down sugar in body as their immune system keeps attacking the cells, which make the hormone insulin needed to control sugar levels. High blood sugar for long periods of time can lead to serious damage to heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves. People diagnosed with type-1 diabetes need to take insulin for the rest of their lives.

"Preliminary tests show that a gluten-free diet in humans has a positive effect on children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. We therefore hope that a gluten-free diet during pregnancy and lactation may be enough to protect high-risk children from developing diabetes later in life," says assistant professor Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

In the present study, researchers found that diet lacking gluten changed the intestinal bacteria in both mothers and their pups. This shift in microbiome could explain why these pups had a low chance of developing diabetes type-1 despite being in the high-risk group. Previous research has shown that microbes in the guts are involved in immune system response and diabetes.

For the study, researchers fed pregnant and lactating mothers with gluten-free (GF) diet. They found that early life intervention led to a lower risk of diabetes in pups.

Note that the study is a preliminary one and is conducted on animals. Still, researchers believe that there is reason to be optimistic about the findings.

"Early intervention makes a lot of sense because type 1 diabetes develops early in life. We also know from existing experiments that a gluten-free diet has a beneficial effect on type 1 diabetes," Axel Kornerup from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, according to a news release.

The study is published in the journal Diabetes. 

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