A Finnish study has shown dietary intervention in infancy can prevent the initiation of the disease process leading to Type 1 diabetes among high-risk children.
The study population comprised 230 newborn infants with at least one family member affected by type 1 diabetes and a predisposing genotype based on screening cord blood at birth.
The participants were randomized into two groups; the infants in the intervention group were weaned to a highly hydrolyzed casein-based formula (Nutramigen, Mead Johnson Nutrition), while those in the control group were weaned to a regular cow's milk-based formula supplemented with 20 pc Nutramigen to make the two formulas comparable in terms of smell and taste.
The intention was that the participants should be exposed to their study formula for at least 2 months by the age of 6 months, or if exclusively breast-fed up to that age by the age of 8 months.
The study participants were observed up to the age of 10 years for the appearance of diabetes-predictive autoantibodies and progression to type 1 diabetes.
Twenty-five children (12 pc) developed at least two diabetes-predictive autoantibodies out of the five tested for, which marks a high risk of presenting with clinical diabetes.
Seventeen children tested positive for two or more autoantibodies had been randomized to the control group (16 pc), whereas seven belonged to the intervention (casein hydrolysate) group (7 pc).
Nine children (8pc) in the control group presented with clinical diabetes by the age of 10 years, while four of those (4 pc) who had been exposed to the casein hydrolysate progressed to clinical disease
Professor Mikael Knip stated, "The study showed that the safe and simple dietary intervention applied in this pilot trial was capable of reducing the emergence of diabetes-predictive autoantibodies by about 50 pc by age 10 in the participants carrying increased disease risk.
"The current study population does not provide sufficient statistical power to definitely conclude whether an intervention of this type will reduce the frequency of clinical type 1 diabetes, although the preliminary data are promising."