Cow's Milk May Raise
Diabetes Risk In Some Children
By Chris Marsden and David North

WESTPORT (Reuters Health) - The controversial link between drinking cow's milk during infancy and the risk of developing diabetes may have been strengthened by a study published this month.
According to a report in the October issue of Diabetes, exposure early in life to cow's milk may increase the lifetime risk of developing diabetes in high-risk children.
Exposure to cow's milk has previously been shown to cause the body to mount an immune response to insulin in some children, but the link has been disputed by at least one study. Type 1 diabetes can be characterized by an "autoimmune'' response, where the body's immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
Dr. Johanna Paronen from University of Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues studied infants with relatives who had diabetes. The children were fed either a cow's milk-based formula or a non-cow's milk based formula after breast-feeding until the age of 6 to 8 months.
At 3 months of age, infants fed cow's milk had a significantly higher immune response to cow insulin than infants who received the other formula or were breast-fed did, the authors report. However, the groups showed no differences in reactivity to human insulin at that age.
"Our observations raise the issue of whether oral exposure to foreign insulin plays a role in the autoimmune process leading to type 1 diabetes,'' Paronen and colleagues write. It could be that in some predisposed children, early exposure to cow's milk could trigger an immune reaction to insulin, they conclude.
SOURCE: Diabetes 2000;49:1657-1665.

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