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Timing of First Solid Food Exposure Crucial in Preventing Type 1 Diabetes

Update Date: Jul 08, 2013 03:59 PM EDT

The timing of first solid food exposure is crucial for infant health, according to new research.  Scientists linked both early and late first exposure to solid food to the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus in infants.

The new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, suggests that first exposure to solid food should be between four to five months to reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes in children.

Investigators looked at the associations between perinatal and infant exposures, especially early infant diet, and the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

There has been a significant increase in the rate of type 1 diabetes mellitus worldwide, with the most rapid increase seen among children younger than five years of age.  According to researchers, the infant diet has been of particular interest in the origin of the disease.

For the study, lead researcher Brittni Frederiksen, M.P.H., Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Aurora, and colleagues, tested samples of umbilical cord blood for diabetes susceptibility in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region

The study was performed at St. Joseph's Hospital in Denver and first-degree relatives of individuals with T1DM were recruited from the Denver area.

The findings revealed that both early (less than 4 months of age) and late (greater than or equal to 6 months of age) first exposure to any solid food was associated with development of T1DM (hazard ratio [HR] 1.91, and HR, 3.02, respectively).

The study results showed that early exposure to fruit and late exposure to rice/oat was associated with an increased risk of T1DMB (HR, 2.23 and HR, 2.88, respectively), whereas breastfeeding when wheat /barley (HR, 0.47) were introduced appeared to be associated with a decreased risk.

"Our data suggest multiple foods/antigens play a role and that there is a complex relationship between the timing and type of infant food exposures and T1DM risk," researchers wrote in the study.

"In summary, there appears to be a safe window in which to introduce solid foods between 4 and 5 months of age; solid foods should be introduced while continuing to breastfeed to minimize T1DM risk in genetically susceptible children. These findings should be replicated in a larger cohort for confirmation," the authors concluded.

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