Washington: Researchers have shown that mouse mothers can protect their pups from developing type 1 diabetes by eating a gluten-free diet.
According to preliminary studies by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, the findings may apply to humans.
The mouse study adds more knowledge to a field that has been object for research many years.
Assistant professor Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, said preliminary tests show that a gluten-free diet in humans has a positive effect on children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes.
Friis said they 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.
Findings from experiments on mice are not necessarily applicable to humans, but in this case we have grounds for optimism, says co-writer on the study professor Axel Kornerup from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.
Experiments of this type have been going on since 1999, originally initiated by Professor Karsten Buschard from the Bartholin Institute at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, another co-writer on the study.
The experiment showed that the diet changed the intestinal bacteria in both the mother and the pups. The intestinal flora plays an important role for the development of the immune system as well as the development of type 1 diabetes, and the study suggests that the protective effect of a gluten-free diet can be ascribed to certain intestinal bacteria. The advantage of the gluten-free diet is that the only side-effect seems to be the inconvenience of having to avoid gluten, but there is no certain evidence of the effect or side-effects.
The findings have been published in the journal Diabetes.