Study Seeks Environmental Factors to Type 1 Diabetes

Australian researchers want to interview 1400 mothers to see if lifestyle and diet might affect rates of Type 1 diabetes in children.



Australian researchers are recruiting up to 1400 mothers for a long-term study to see what role environmental factors play in developing Type 1 diabetes, according to a recent ABC news story in Australia. The study will focus on women who have Type 1 diabetes or who at least have relatives with Type 1. The goal is to see if certain environmental influences, from diet to maternal health, might trigger Type 1 diabetes in the womb, according to the article.

To do this, researchers will track the health and lifestyle decisions of the recruited mothers to see what role these factors might play in activating genes that can cause Type 1 diabetes in their offspring.

Understanding of the interplay between genes and environmental factors of Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes has been coming from opposite ends of the spectrum to meet closer to the middle in recent years. In the past, Type 2 was considered almost exclusively to be a product of lifestyle over genetics, but researchers now understand that there is a strong genetic component to the condition. Less well understood are the environmental components behind the genetic workings of Type 1 diabetes. In previous studies, researchers have been testing a variety of possible environmental influences that would affect rates of Type 1 diabetes, including everything from virus exposure in the womb to drinking cow’s milk, but the hard data needed to find environmental smoking guns, to this point, has been limited.  In the ABC article, lead researcher Professor Jenny Couper, from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, hopes her study will change that:

We know so much more now about the genes and the way the body’s affected by the environment, we think we’re much better able to tease out the details.

The $1.49 million study is jointly funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in the U.S., according to a Health Canal news story.

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Craig Idlebrook is managing editor for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation. He's written about health policy, environmental health, community health, and maternal health for over 25 publications. You can reach him at cidlebrook@epscomm.com.