Adapted from Antvorskov JC et al. Association between maternal gluten intake and type one diabetes in offspring. BMJ 22 September 2018
This research was based on a study of Danish women’s food frequency questionnaires completed 25 weeks after their first pregnancies ended. The incidence of diabetes in the children was then noted from January 1996 till May 2016 from the Danish Registry of Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes. After certain exclusions had been made over 63,500 were analysed.
The mean gluten intake per day was 13g ranging from 7g to more than 20g per day.
The incidence of diabetes in the child increased proportionately according to gluten intake. The women who had 20g or more intake had double the type one diabetes in their offspring compared to those who ate 7g or less.
As type one diabetes has risen seemingly inexplicably over the last few decades, there has been a lot of consideration into possible environmental triggers. Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, rye and barley. In animal studies, a wheat free diet in the mother has been found to dramatically reduce the incidence of diabetes in the child.
It has been suggested that gluten can affect gut permeability, gut microbiotica and cause low grade inflammation.
Although there is this association between gluten and type one diabetes it could be that other factors, for example the advanced glycation products from the baking process, that are to blame. Unwanted additives to grain could also be a factor eg mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides and fertilisers.
Mothers who eat a lot of gluten may similarly feed their children a lot of gluten. They also may pass gliadin from wheat into the breast milk.
Although this research suggests that high amounts of gluten may be problematic in pregnancy, further research will need to be done before dietary recommendations are likely to be changed.