Timing of first solid food influences diabetes risk

July 16, 2013

It seems a window exists for introducing solid foods to infants that minimizes the risk of type 1 diabetes mellitus in children at increased genetic risk for the disease.

 

It seems a window exists for introducing solid foods to infants that minimizes the risk of type 1 diabetes mellitus in children at increased genetic risk for the disease.

Researchers have found that about 5 months of age is the ideal time to introduce solid foods to children at increased genetic risk for type 1 diabetes, and breastfeeding while introducing solid foods can further reduce the risk.

Introducing solid foods too soon tends to be the focus, but in this case, both too soon and too late were less than ideal.

Researchers from Colorado conducted the Diabetes Autoimmunity Study in the Young (DAISY), a longitudinal, observational study involving 1,835 children at increased risk for type 1 diabetes. Of the total study participants, 53 children actually developed the disease.

The investigators found that those children introduced to solid foods before aged 4 months had almost twice the risk for the disease as those introduced to solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age. Also, those introduced to solid foods after 6 months of age had 3 times the risk.

More specifically, the researchers discovered that early exposure to fruit more than doubled the risk and late exposure to rice or oats (non–gluten-containing) almost tripled the risk, while breastfeeding at the time of introduction to wheat or barley (gluten-containing) reduced the risk by almost half. A complicated vaginal delivery also almost doubled the risk, compared with a normal vaginal delivery.

The timing of the introduction of vegetables and meat did not seem to have an effect.

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months of life. 

 

To get weekly clinical advice for today's pediatrician, subscribe to the Contemporary Pediatrics eConsult.