A new study has found that keeping babies off cow’s milk may help prevent the development of type 1 diabetes in children. The study followed 230 Finnish babies who received formula because breast milk was not available. Half of the babies received standard cow’s milk formula while the other half were given a special formula in which the proteins found in the casein portion of the milk had been broken down into components too small to activate the immune system, a process called hydrolyzation.
The researchers found that babies fed this hydrolyzed formula were less likely to develop telltale antibodies that are believed to pave the way for diabetes. The babies will have to be followed for many years in order to be sure about these results.
This pilot study was not large enough to tell if avoiding cow’s milk reduced the actual risk of diabetes. Eight percent of the cow’s milk recipients developed type 1 diabetes, compared to 6 percent who got the special formula, a difference that was not statistically significant.A much larger study of 2,160 babies, now ongoing in 15 countries, is expected to provide a definitive answer to the question in 2017.
The results of this study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and reported by Reuters.