Medical Breakthroughs: Preventing Type 1 Diabetes

DIABETES: Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other foods into energy needed for living. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, though both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

Approximately 17 million people in the United States, or 6.2 percent of the population, have diabetes. While an estimated 11 million have been diagnosed, doctors estimate another 6 million people are unaware they have the disease. There are several types of diabetes.

TYPE 1 DIABETES: This form of the disease results from the body's failure to produce insulin, the hormone that "unlocks" the cells of the body allowing glucose to enter and fuel them. It is estimated five percent to 10 percent of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. Not much is known about what causes this type of the disease. There have been many theories connecting nutrition and the development of diabetes. Some studies indicate breastfeeding may prevent the development and others say there is no correlation.

TRIGR TRIAL: The Trial to Reduce Insulin dependent diabetes in the Genetically at Risk is meant to determine the effect of nutritional intervention during the first six to eight months of life.

In phase I of the study, involving more than 200 newborns at risk for type 1 diabetes, researchers found those fed without formula made with cow's milk were about 50 percent less likely to develop proteins associated with type 1 diabetes.

For phase II, researchers are now recruiting pregnant women with type 1, those with partners who have type 1, or those who have a child with type 1 to determine if there is a link between cow's milk and type 1 diabetes.

Women who are unable to breastfeed or who need to supplement with formula can be included if their baby is at high risk of developing the disease.

The children will be monitored for the first 10 years of their lives. They will have blood drawn, and will be tracked by a dietician to make sure they are getting adequate nutrition. In addition, researchers will keep track of immunizations, different gene types, foods children eat later in life, and where they live.

Each baby will be randomized to receive either a standard formula or one that has already had the proteins broken down. Researchers theorize some children may not digest those proteins on their own and the process may trigger diabetes.

LOCATIONS: For a list of international cities for the study, go to


Melanie Finnigan
Coordinator, Media Relations
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

WSAW-TV 1114 Grand Ave. Wausau, WI 54403
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 215706 -
Gray Television, Inc.