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A veggie-rich diet during pregnancy may protect babies from diabetes

November 16, 2009

Mothers who ate vegetables only three to fives times per week increased the risk of type 1 diabetes in their children by 70 percent, compared to women who consumed vegetables daily during pregnancy, according to new study results.

In the study, the researchers looked at the mothers’ daily consumption of all vegetables except for root vegetables (1). Blood samples of almost 6,000 five year-olds were analyzed to measure levels of the antibodies indicative of the autoimmune response linked to type 1 diabetes. Of the children tested, 3.3 percent had either elevated levels of these antibodies or fully developed type 1 diabetes. According to the findings, these risk markers were up to twice as common in children whose mothers rarely ate vegetables during pregnancy. Furthermore, the risk was lowest among children whose mothers stated that they ate vegetables every day.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when people are not able to produce any insulin after the cells in the pancreas have been damaged; it is thought to be an autoimmune response. While it is not currently known what initiates the autoimmune process, many experts believe that both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to the disease process.

The researchers commented that based on these findings, it cannot be said with certainty that the vegetables themselves have this protective effect, but other factors related to vegetable intake, such as the mother's standard of education, other measured dietary factors or other known risk factors do not seem to explain the link. This is the first study to show a link between vegetable intake during pregnancy and the risk of the child subsequently developing type-1 diabetes, but more studies of various kinds will be needed before anything definitive can be said, the scientists concluded.

References

  1. Brekke HK and Ludvigsson J. Daily vegetable intake during pregnancy negatively associated to islet autoimmunity in the offspring – The ABIS study. Pediatric Diabetes, 2009.