Probiotic use during the first 27 days after birth may reduce the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in children, according to a new study.
Probiotics contain live organisms that may provide health benefits by improving gut function and promoting a healthy immune system. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics has shown that early probiotic use decreases the risk of islet autoimmunity in genetically susceptible children. Islet autoimmunity arises when an individual’s own antibodies attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and is associated with the development of type 1 diabetes. Because impaired intestinal function has also been linked to type 1 diabetes, the researchers studied the link between probiotic use and the risk of islet autoimmunity.
More than 7 000 children from the US, Finland, Germany, and Sweden who were genetically at risk of developing islet autoimmunity were enrolled in the study and followed for up to ten years. Blood samples were obtained from the subjects every 3 to 6 months to determine the presence of autoantibodies. The study found that probiotic use was highest among children in Finland with the median age at first exposure to probiotics at 28 days followed by Germany, Sweden, and the United States. Dietary supplements were the main sources of probiotics in Finland, Sweden, and the United States, while probiotic infant formula was mostly used in Germany. Increased probiotic use during the first year of life was strongly associated with antibiotic use, diarrhea, and gastroenteritis. The results revealed that probiotic use during the first 27 days of life reduced the likelihood of islet autoimmunity in genetically susceptible children compared to probiotic use after 27 days or non-exposure to probiotics.
According to the study, early probiotic use could provide a protective effect against islet autoimmunity and further studies will be needed before probiotic supplementation could be prescribed to infants.
Uusitalo U, Liu X, Yang Jimin, Aronsson CA, Hummel S,…Krischer J, Norris JM, and Virtanen SM. Association of early exposure of probiotics and islet autoimmunity in the TEDDY study. JAMA Pediatrics. Published online on 9 November 2015. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2757
Written by Ana Victoria Pilar