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Is There a Link Between Formula Feeding and Diabetes?

The Verdict Is In: There's No Link Between Formula Made With Cow's Milk and Diabetes

A newly published study in JAMA may have finally righted a misconception about the the relationship between formula and your infant's health: it found that there's absolutely no correlation between formula made from cow's milk and Type 1 diabetes. After studying babies from 15 countries around the world, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have concluded there's no link between formula made with cow's milk and babies getting Type 1 diabetes later in life.

The study looked at 2,159 infants who had a predisposition to Type 1 diabetes, meaning at least one person in their family was affected by the disease. The subjects were randomly split into two groups of 1,081 participants, respectively, and fed their assigned formula for between six and eight months. Researchers found that switching children over from formula made from cow's milk to dairy-free formula did not reduce their odds of developing Type 1 diabetes after an average of 11.5 years.

And this is pretty big news in the parenting world for families with a history of diabetes. "Previous studies have indicated that early exposure to complex foreign proteins, such as the proteins in cow's milk, may increase the risk of Type 1 diabetes in people with genetic risk for the disease," said Neil H. White, MD, study author and Washington University professor of pediatrics and medicine, in a news release. "The question was whether delaying the exposure to complex foreign proteins will decrease the risk of diabetes. The answer is no."


According to the American Diabetes Association, about 193,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes. So what does that mean for infants? Experts aren't planning on changing their dietary recommendations any time soon as far as this issue is concerned.

"This study shows no statistically significant difference between the groups in terms of how many of these children developed diabetes," said White. "Therefore, it helps provide a long-awaited, definitive answer to the controversy regarding the potential role of cow's milk formula in the development of Type 1 diabetes. It also indicates there is no evidence to revise the current dietary recommendations for infants at high risk for Type 1 diabetes."

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