Introducing solid food to infants too early — and too late — appears to raise their odds of developing Type 1 diabetes, according to new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The findings, by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health, suggest one reason why diabetes is increasing around the world, particularly among children younger than 5 years of age.
The study, led by Brittni Frederiksen, found infants introduced to solid food early (at less than 4 months of age) and late (greater than 6 months of age) were far more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes. Early exposure to fruits and late exposure to rice/oat cereal was associated with the greatest risks, while infants fed wheat/barley products while they were still breastfeeding had the lowest risks.
For the study, researchers tracked newborns at St. Joseph's Hospital in Denver.
"Our data suggest multiple foods/antigens play a role and that there is a complex relationship between the timing and type of infant food exposures and [diabetes] risk," the researchers said.
"In summary, there appears to be a safe window in which to introduce solid foods between 4 and 5 months of age; solid foods should be introduced while continuing to breastfeed to minimize [diabetes] risk in genetically susceptible children."
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
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