Infant Diet May Affect Beta-Cell Autoimmunity Markers

Casein hydrolysate formula linked to less risk of positivity for autoantibodies than control formula

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- In infants at increased risk for type 1 diabetes due to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genotype, supplementing breast milk with a highly hydrolyzed milk formula is associated with fewer signs of beta-cell autoimmunity into childhood, according to research published in the Nov. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Mikael Knip, M.D., of the University of Helsinki in Finland, and colleagues analyzed data from 230 infants with HLA-conferred susceptibility to type 1 diabetes and one or more family members with the disease. Infants randomly received a casein hydrolysate formula or a control formula based on cow's milk during their first 6 to 8 months whenever breast milk was unavailable.

The researchers found that the children in the casein hydrolysate group had a lower risk of testing positive for one or more autoantibodies (islet-cell antibodies; insulin autoantibodies; and autoantibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase, insulinoma-associated 2 molecule, and zinc transporter 8). The hazard ratio for positivity in these infants compared with the control infants, adjusted for difference in duration of exposure to study formula, was 0.51. The adjusted hazard ratio for positivity for two or more was 0.47.

"Although it seems likely that dietary constituents, not too surprisingly, can influence the immune system and intermediary metabolism, our knowledge of the mechanisms at play are, at present, rudimentary," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

The study was supported in part by the Novo Nordisk Foundation; Mead Johnson Nutrition provided study formulas.

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