January 16, 2018 5:14 pm
Updated: January 16, 2018 5:44 pm

Cow’s milk and Type 1 diabetes? International study disproves link

WATCH: Imagine having a medical team interact with your child for the first decade of their life, to prove whether what they’re fed may increase their risk of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes? One Halifax family jumped at the chance to help prove or disprove the connection between the disease and dietary elements — in particular, cow’s milk.


It may seem absurd to think there could be a connection between cow’s milk and Type 1 diabetes but at one point in the early millennium, the medical community had enough evidence to believe that may be true.

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“Anything we could do to prevent people from getting Type 1 diabetes would be really exciting and important but it’s also important to find out if it doesn’t work because that means people don’t have to worry abut feeding their baby a special formula if they know there’s diabetes in their family,” Dr. Beth Cummings said, a pediatric endocrinologist in Halifax.

Dr. Cummings was the lead investigator for the Halifax team that followed more than 2,000 infants over the first decade of their lives, some even longer.

READ MORE: Diabetes Canada closing some summer camps in New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Ottawa

The goal of the international study, conducted in over 15 countries, was to determine whether what children were fed at an early age — primarily cow’s milk protein — had any impact on them ultimately acquiring the disease.

“What this study has shown is that we’re not finding any connection. So, Type 1 diabetes is mostly something you inherit a risk for from your family members, that’s about 50 per cent of the risk. The other 50 per cent, we don’t understand and that was the point of this study,” Dr. Cummings said.

One of the Halifax participants was Lisa Letourneau’s daughter, Skye.

Letourneau was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 10 years old.

“Because I was diabetic and pregnant, I have to go through more monitoring than a typical pregnancy,” Letourneau said.

WATCH: Eating with diabetes

When she was pregnant with Skye, she was approached to be in the study based on the increased genetic risk her daughter may have of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

She was relieved to find out, there was no connection between formula and the disease.

“I already knew what signs to look for, as already having it, but at the same time, you can’t tell what’s developing in the body from the outside so it was mind relieving,” she said.

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