For decades, researchers have puzzled over why type 1 diabetes is becoming more common. Type 1 diabetes is a serious disease. People who have it can’t produce insulin. Insulin tells your cells to take up sugar from your blood. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.
Researchers have wondered whether infant formula made from cow’s milk might cause children to develop type 1 diabetes. Cow’s milk is similar to human milk, but it does have different proteins. Some studies suggest that early exposure to the complex proteins in cow’s milk might lead the body’s defense system to mistakenly attack the cells that make insulin.
To test whether the proteins in cow’s milk could cause this reaction, researchers tested two formulas. One group of infants received a formula made from cow’s milk. The other received a formula made from cow’s milk that was processed to break complex proteins into small pieces. All the infants selected for the study had a genetic makeup that put them at higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Some children in both groups developed type 1 diabetes by the time they were 10 years old. The results showed that the chance of developing the disease was the same for children in both groups.
“This study puts to rest the controversy regarding the potential role of cow’s milk formula in the development of type 1 diabetes,” says Dr. Dorothy Becker at the University of Pittsburgh, who led the study in the United States.