The Danish National Birth Cohort collects data on pregnant women fluent in Danish. The study analyzed 91 745 women and 101 042 pregnancies recorded from January 1996 to October 2002, which covered about 35% of births in Denmark in that period. Follow up studies and interviews were carried out at specific points during and after the pregnancies, including maternal lifestyle, food frequency, health characteristics, breastfeeding. Further follow-ups occurred when the children were about 7, 11, and 14 years. Due to attrition in participation, 67 565 pregnancies represented 63 529 individuals were in the final results.
The mean maternal gluten intake was 13.0 g/day with a standard deviation of 5.3. The offspring of mothers who had the highest gluten intake (equal to or above 20 g/day) were twice as likely to be diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes compared to children of mothers on a low gluten diet.
Characteristics that were considered and adjusted for in the study include:
Mother’s age at childbirth
Body mass index before pregnancy
Smoking during pregnancy
Parental socioeconomic status
Total energy intake
The effect of maternal gluten intake on offspring may be due to a combination of diet, microbiota, and the child’s immune system development. In general, the study shows that high gluten intake is likely a risk factor for Type 1 Diabetes in children; however the study advises getting more evidence before changes to diet, like substituting for gluten-free foods, can be recommended.
Note: Gluten-free products are primarily manufactured using gluten-free cereals and starches that have been rendered gluten-free. “Gluten-free” is not defined in European legislation; however, current codes of practice, guidelines show a limit of 20ppm for foods made from naturally gluten-free products, and 200 ppm for foods that have been rendered gluten-free.