Drinking formula made from cow’s milk may not put babies at higher risk of developing Type 1 diabetes, the first large international trial showed.
Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin.
Previous studies have reported that early exposure to complex foreign proteins, such as cow’s milk proteins, may increase the risk of Type 1 diabetes in young children with genetic risk for the condition.
For the new study, the team led by University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre, examined 2,159 infants from 15 countries with genetic risk for Type 1 diabetes to find out whether delaying the exposure to complex foreign proteins such as cow’s milk proteins would decrease the risk of diabetes.
After breastfeeding, infants were either weaned to a special formula (extensively hydrolysed casein formula), with the cow’s milk proteins split into small peptides (small pieces of the protein), or a regular cow’s milk-based formula with intact cow’s milk proteins.
Infants were fed the study formula for at least two months until the age of six to eight months and at the same time were given no cow’s milk proteins from any other food sources and were followed for over 10 years.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that no association was found between children fed formula with whole-milk proteins or those with the proteins broken down.
“The study puts to rest the controversy regarding the potential role of cow’s milk formula in the development of Type 1 diabetes,” said Dorothy Becker, Professor at the varsity.
The study also showed that “there is no evidence to revise the current dietary recommendations for infants at high risk for Type 1 diabetes,” Becker noted.