Preventing Type 1 Diabetes
PITTSBURGH (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- In recent years, conflicting studies linked cow's milk to diabetes in young children. Some studies found children who were given formula made with cow's milk were more likely to develop the disease, while other studies have shown no connection. Now researchers are getting to the bottom of this dietary dilemma.
Seven-year-old David Schenken is used to this scenario. As a type 1 diabetic, he checks his blood sugar four times a day.
Until David, the Schenkens had no history of diabetes in their family. With another baby on the way, they were curious about the cause.
David's mom, Kyra, says, "I did hear that breastfeeding possibly could prevent that, which I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' Since I was unsuccessful at it, I thought 'Oh, my goodness,' that's kind of a little bit of guilt."
So Kyra signed up for the TRIGR trial. Non-breastfed babies receive either standard formula or a special kind, called hydrolyzed formula.
"The two formulas are identical except for the fact that the one has the protein already broken down," says pediatric endocrinologist Dorothy Becker, M.B.B.C.H., of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Becker says one theory suggests digesting proteins from cow's milk before they break down may trigger diabetes. Studies in animals predisposed to diabetes surprised researchers.
"The results were dramatic. If you gave the rats and mice predigested formula, diabetes was prevented in 80 percent of them," says Dr. Becker.
Kyra doesn't know if her unborn child will develop the disease. But, she does know she's proud of David. "He has a pretty good attitude and he's very responsible, so he's been handling it great," she says.
A study of 200 newborns found those who had formula without cow's milk were 50 percent less likely to develop diabetes. Researchers from sites around the United States and the world will enroll nearly 3,000 participants. Children will be followed for 10 years to determine if they develop the disease.
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