Type I diabetes, once called juvenile diabetes because it usually shows up during childhood, is a condition in which the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Type I diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes because people with the condition need to take insulin injections on a daily basis to regulate their blood sugar levels.

In a new study published in the journal Diabetes, researchers show that, in an animal model, mothers who consume a gluten-free diet are less likely to have offspring that develop type I diabetes when compared to mothers who eat a standard diet. According to researchers from the University of Copenhagen, these findings may apply to humans.

“Preliminary tests show that a gluten-free diet in humans has a positive effect on children with newly diagnosed type I diabetes. We therefore hope that a gluten-free diet during pregnancy and lactation may be enough to protect high-risk children from developing diabetes later in life,” said Camilla Hansen, one of the researchers. “Early intervention makes a lot of sense because type I diabetes develops early in life,” noted Axel Kornerup, PhD, another researcher.

The study found that the gluten-free diet changed the intestinal bacteria of the mother as well as the offspring. It is known that gut bacteria play an important role on the development of the immune system, indicating that the change in bacteria may be responsible for the protective effect

While this study is preliminary, it offers hope that we might one day be able to prevent the development of this challenging disease by simply recommending a gluten-free diet to pregnant women. Studies in humans are needed, and the researchers hope to continue the work with a human clinical trial. I will keep you posted if I hear more on the topic.