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Special Infant Formula Might Help Shield Babies from Type 1 Diabetes
Date:11/11/2010

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Offering your baby a special formula when weaning off breastfeeding may offer some protection against the development of the antibodies associated with type 1 diabetes, if you have a family history of the disease, new research suggests.

When Finnish researchers randomly assigned 230 babies at high risk of type 1 diabetes to receive either a regular infant formula, or one that was extensively hydrolyzed -- which means the proteins in the formula are already partially broken down and more readily available for digestion -- they found that the extensively hydrolyzed formula cut the rate of developing diabetes-linked antibodies in the blood by about half.

"We observed that early dietary intervention [with extensively hydrolyzed formula] decreased the frequency of diabetes-associated autoantibodies, which are markers of an ongoing disease process, by about 50 percent by the age of 10 years," said the study's lead author, Dr. Michael Knip, a professor of pediatrics at the Hospital for Children and Adolescents in Helsinki, Finland.

The results of the study were published in the Nov. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means the body's immune system mistakenly turns against healthy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, instead of a foreign material, such as bacteria. No one knows for sure what causes this process to begin, but some research suggests that the initial autoimmunity may begin early in life.

Five immune system autoantibodies have been linked to type 1 diabetes. Having one of these antibodies isn't a guarantee that you'll develop type 1 diabetes, but it does indicate an increased risk for the disease. People who have two or more type 1 antibodies have between a 50 and 100 percent risk of developing type 1 diabetes, according to background information
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