Cow’s Milk Baby Formula Doesn’t Increase Risk of Developing Type 1 Diabetes


The cause of type 1 diabetes is still unknown, but for many years, researchers have been studying ways to prevent it. (See here for a list of pediatric type 1 diabetes prevention trials.) Yesterday, the results of the TRIGR study,  led in the U.S. by principal investigator Dorothy Becker, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, were published in JAMA.

The study looked at whether or not hydrolyzed baby formula could prevent type 1 diabetes in babies with increased risk of developing the disease, and brought disappointing news to those of us desperately seeking a way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

Previous studies suggested that early infant exposure to complex foreign proteins, like those in cow’s milk, could raise the risk of developing type 1 in a child who already had an increased genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

The TRIGR study, according to a press release from the University of Pittsburg, studied 2,159 infants with a family member affected by type 1 diabetes and with genetic risk for type 1 diabetes, attempted to find out whether delaying the exposure to complex foreign proteins such as cow’s milk proteins would decrease the risk of diabetes.

“After breastfeeding, infants were either weaned to a special formula (extensively hydrolyzed casein formula), with the cow’s milk proteins split into small peptides (small pieces of the protein), or a regular cow’s milk-based formula with intact cow’s milk proteins. Infants were fed the study formula for at least two months until the age of 6 to 8 months and at the same time were given no cow’s milk proteins from any other food sources. The children were followed for at least 10 years to determine which children developed diabetes.

At 11.5 years of follow up, weaning to an extensively hydrolyzed casein formula during infancy did not result in a reduction in the incidence of type 1 diabetes compared to regular, intact cow’s-milk-based formula.

“After more than 15 years of effort, this study puts to rest the controversy regarding the potential role of cow’s milk formula in the development of type 1 diabetes,” said Becker. “This once more shows us that there is no easy way to prevent type 1 diabetes. Accordingly, there is no evidence to revise the current dietary recommendations for infants at high risk for type 1 diabetes. We need to chip away at our research efforts around the world to find interventions that may change the pre-diabetes course. Ongoing work of our study is doing just that.””


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