If babies at risk for type one diabetes have their first solid foods before they are four months old or after six months, they have at least double the chances of developing the disorder. Why such a specific window? Four to six months is the recommended age that all children start eating solid foods, but the timing is more important for at-risk babies because of genetic susceptibility.

Type one diabetes is a lifelong disease. Around 3 million Americans have this disease and must take insulin several times a day as well as keep a close watch on their blood sugar levels to avoid quick drops or rises. It means your immune system attacks the cells that make insulin. The development of cells that are immune to these attacks is linked to the introduction of solid foods into a baby’s diet. It is hypothesized that this is because the infant’s immune system might not be ready for new foods at a very young age. If the baby continues to breastfeed while transitioning to solid foods, the breast milk helps protect the child while his or her immune system is developing.

More research and larger studies are needed into this connection between solid food introduction and type one diabetes, but it could be important in learning about preventing the disease. While diabetes can be controlled through the aforementioned insulin shots, science does not yet know how to prevent it. It is also not known if there are certain foods at-risk babies should be fed when they are being introduced to solid foods. Following the nutritional recommendations of the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine does significantly lower the risk of children with type one diabetes.  It is important for such children to develop healthy lifestyles to avoid becoming overweight and obese.

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