Timing of babies' solid food may raise diabetes risk


CHICAGO , Illinois (AP) -- Introducing cereal too early or too late in infancy might increase the odds of diabetes in children already at risk for the disease, a study suggests.

Another study found a similar risk for introducing gluten-containing foods too soon.

Both studies suggest that starting solid food at the wrong time could overwhelm at-risk infants' immature immune systems and trigger changes that might lead to diabetes.

The preliminary findings are far from proof, and the researchers themselves said the results should not prompt any changes in babies' feeding habits.

Still, the research is provocative and could reveal some of the environmental triggers that might contribute to some cases of diabetes.

The studies -- one from the University of Colorado , the other from Germany -- are published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Both involved youngsters already at risk for juvenile diabetes because of genes or family members already afflicted. Both studies also compared the timing of the introduction of solid food in infancy with the development of antibodies that sometimes lead to juvenile diabetes.

Doctors frequently recommend starting solid food -- usually cereal -- between the ages of 4 months and 6 months.

University of Colorado researcher Jill Norris and colleagues found a fourfold increased risk of developing pre-diabetes antibodies in babies started on any type of cereal before the recommended period, and a fivefold higher risk for those fed afterward.

Norris said it might be that introducing solid food too soon induces the production of antibodies that destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Starting solid food after 7 months might also might overload infants' still-developing immune systems, Norris said.

Her study involved 1,183 children followed for an average of about four years. Only 34 children showed persistent evidence of the pertinent antibodies, and only 16 actually developed diabetes.

The average age for developing juvenile diabetes is around 11, and more of the children studied might develop it when they get older, Norris said.

The other study, from the Diabetes Research Institute in Munich , involved 1,610 children followed for an average of about six years. It found an increased risk in introducing solids earlier than 4 months of age -- but only with foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.

New Orleans pediatrician Dr. Michael Wasserman of the Ochsner Clinic Foundation said the theory that the introduction of certain foods induces diabetes "doesn't make intuitive sense and yet it may be scientifically correct based on information we don't yet know."



MAdGE (Mothers Against Genetic Engineering in Food and the Environment) today launched a highly controversial billboard campaign in Auckland and Wellington to provoke public debate about the social and cultural ethics of genetic
engineering in New Zealand .

The billboards depict a naked, genetically engineered woman with four breasts being milked by a milking machine, and GE branded on her rump.

"New Zealanders are allowing a handful of corporate scientists and ill-informed politicians to make decisions on the ethics of GE.  Our largest science company, AgResearch, is currently putting human genes into cows in the hope of creating new designer milks. The ethics of such experiments have not even been  discussed by the wider public. How far will we allow them to go?  Where is the line in the sand? Why is the government lifting the moratorium on GE when we have not even had a public debate on ethics?" said Alannah Currie Madge founder and billboard designer.

Fonterra , New Zealand ís largest milk company recently purchased the patent rights to large amounts of human DNA from an Australian genetics company. (Dominionpost 15.9.2003)  "The mothers of New Zealand would like to know
exactly what our milk company are doing with this human DNA. We at MAdGE want an assurance from Fonterra that they will continue to keep our milk GE Free now and in the future and not use human genes in cows to boost milk production." said  Ms Currie.