Increased intake of gluten by pregnant mothers was found to be associated with an increased risk for type 1 diabetes in their children, according to a study published in BMJ.
Using the Danish National Birth Cohort, researchers examined data collected on pregnant women that included maternal lifestyles interviews, food frequency questionnaires, and general health characteristics. Data from the Danish Registry of Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes provided diagnoses of type 1 diabetes in children.
Of the 67,565 pregnancies included, the average gluten intake was 13 ± 5.3 g/day and 0.37% (n = 247) of the children were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The women with the highest gluten intake (≥20 g/day) consumed 477 g/day of grains and had a total energy intake of 13.6 mJ/day. The women with the lowest gluten intake (<7 g/day) consumed about 112 g/day of grains and had a total energy intake of 7.2 mJ/day. Total nutrient density was similar across all gluten intake categories.
Children with mothers with the highest gluten intake level (≥20 g/day) had double the risk of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when compared with the children of mothers with the lowest gluten intake level (hazard ratio, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.02-4.00). This risk was more prominent in mothers who were aged ≥30 years, had a body mass index of ≥25 before pregnancy, and had a child who was male. Mothers who had type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes also experienced a slightly increased trend towards having a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
The researchers suggested future studies analyze the specific mechanism for the relationship between maternal gluten intake and the child’s risk for diabetes, increase statistical power to draw further conclusions, and follow the diet of the child to measure if the same maternal gluten intake pattern is followed.
This study indicates that there is an association between high maternal intake of gluten and an elevated risk for type 1 diabetes for the child. However, “[t]he association is moderate, suggesting a 50% reduction in type 1 diabetes incidence among the children of mothers with the highest versus lowest gluten intake.”
Antvorskov JC, Halldorsson TI, Josefsen K, et al. Association between maternal gluten intake and type 1 diabetes in offspring: national prospective cohort study in Denmark [published online September 19, 2018]. BMJ. doi:10.1136/bmj.k3547