Probiotics May Reduce Diabetes Risk in Infants

Next to their binky, probiotics may be a baby’s best friend. Past research has found that probiotics may soothe colic, reduce episodes of reflux, and even reverse milk allergies in infants. Now, research suggests that giving probiotics to newborns with the highest genetic risk for type 1 diabetes could reduce their risk of developing islet autoimmunity—a precursor for type 1 diabetes. The study was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics and looked at data on 7,473 children from six medical clinics in the US and Europe. Researchers analyzed dietary information for the infants, tracked (through parental diaries) probiotic use during the first three months of the infant’s life, and tested the children for genetic markers related to diabetes. In addition, they tested the children for islet autoimmunity every three months when the children were between the ages of three months and four years, and every six months thereafter. After adjusting for factors such as family history of type 1 diabetes, certain genotypes, gender, and exclusive breastfeeding, here is what the researchers discovered:

  • Children with the highest genetic risk of developing diabetes who were given probiotics in their first 27 days of life had a 60% reduced risk of islet autoimmunity compared with children in the same genetic group who either received probiotics after 27 days or didn’t receive any probiotics.
  • Children with lower genetic risk did not show the same benefit from receiving probiotics early on.

While this research may be exciting news for parents concerned about their baby’s diabetes risk, it’s important to remember that this was an observational study. Randomized, clinical research is needed before probiotics can be recommended to reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes. In the meantime, talk with your healthcare practitioner if you think probiotics may be beneficial for your child.

Source: JAMA Pediatrics

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