Could Eliminating Gluten Slow Type 1 Diabetes Progression in Kids?

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For children recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, new research hints that leaving gluten behind may help preserve precious insulin production longer

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) arises when the immune system destroys insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, requiring external insulin therapy to regulate blood sugar. Many families cling to the hope that some beta cell function can be preserved long-term, prolonging the partial remission period and easing management burdens.

Seeking accessible ways to slow disease advancement, researchers recently put the gluten-free diet (GFD) to the test in a 12-month trial with children newly diagnosed with T1D. Results provide tentative clues that avoiding dietary gluten may help stabilize beta cell capacity and glycemic control in early T1D.1

Testing Links Between Gluten and Beta Cell Decline

Substantial epidemiological data link increased T1D risk to early gluten introduction, and mouse models demonstrate gluten peptides directly damage pancreatic tissue.2 Small pilot studies also hint gluten exclusion might mitigate beta cell deterioration in established T1D.3

Hoping to extend these protective effects, researchers recruited 45 children diagnosed with T1D in the past 3 months. Half started a strict GFD within 6 weeks of diagnosis while controls maintained a regular diet.

Over the next year, the GFD group showed a slower decline in stimulated C-peptide, a marker of residual insulin secretion. Linear regression modeling estimated GFD participants had 209 pmol/L higher C-peptide output at 12 months than controls.1 While falling short of statistical significance, this trend towards preserved beta cell function could clinically impact disease trajectory long term.

GFD adherents also demonstrated lower HbA1c, insulin needs and insulin-adjusted HbA1c by study close - suggesting easier glycemic management despite similar carbohydrate intake as the control group.1

Weighing Benefits Against Challenges

"While burdensome for families, controlled gluten avoidance shows theoretical promise for damping down autoimmune destruction of still-viable beta cells," says registered dietitian Dr. Stepanka Pruhova, co-author on the recent trial. "Larger, longer studies are warranted to clarify whether the hints of benefit we observed persist and eventually translate to clinical care."

In the meantime, families of children newly diagnosed with T1D should weigh obstacles of stringent dietary restriction against the still uncertain possibility of small delays in disease advancement. As larger trials get underway, those up for the gluten-free challenge could find some initial reward in easier blood sugar control while waiting for clearer answers.

New Research on Beta Cell Regeneration

Excitingly, a growing body of research as indexed on databases like Greenmedinfo.com indicates certain natural compounds have potential to stimulate beta cell regeneration - the holy grail for possibly reversing type 1 diabetes progression.

Greenmedinfo.com currently indexes over 50 substances experimentally shown to have regenerative effects on pancreatic beta cells, spanning plant foods, spices, herbs, probiotics and more.1 Compounds like Arginine, Avocado, Berberine, Flaxseed, Curcumin, Resveratrol and Stevia top the list for their beta cell regenerative potentials demonstrated in preliminary rodent and human studies.1

While larger trials are still needed, this accumulating scientific evidence opens doors to accessible, nutrition-based approaches for preserving precious insulin-producing beta cells in early type 1 diabetes. Rather than resigning patients to inevitable descent into complete insulin dependence, simple dietary inclusion of beta cell-boosting foods and supplements could shift disease course towards partial regeneration. Time will tell whether these food-based approaches can impart lasting recovery, but the foundations for nutritional therapy are growing stronger by the day.

Learn more about the dangers of wheat toxicity here.

Learn more about natural ways to support type 1 diabetes here

Learn more about gluten-free diets here


References

1. Neuman V, Pruhova S, Kulich M, et al. Gluten-free diet in children with recent-onset type 1 diabetes: A 12-month intervention trial. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2020 May;22(5):866-872.

2. Antvorskov JC, Josefsen K, Engkilde K, Funda DP, Buschard K. Dietary gluten and the development of type 1 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2014;57(9):1770‐1780.

3. Sildorf SM, Fredheim S, Svensson J, Buschard K. Remission without insulin therapy on gluten-free diet in a 6-year old boy with type 1 diabetes mellitus. BMJ Case Rep. 2012;2012:bcr0220125361.

4. Greenmedinfo.com. Beta Cell Regeneration Research. https://www.greenmedinfo.com/disease/type-1-diabetes

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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