Nutritional risk factors in the onset and prevention of type 1 diabetes

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Type 1 diabetes is considered an immune-mediated disease, in which signs of beta-cell autoimmunity can be detected at variable times before the diagnosis of clinical disease (Knip 2002). Large geographical differences in incidence and linearly increasing incidence seen in many countries during the last five decades cannot be explained solely by genetic factors (Onkamo et al. 1999; Karvonen et al. 2000; Green et al. 2001). The relatively low concordance of identical twins also confirm the important role of environmental factors in the aetiology of this disease (Barnett et al. 1981). So far there is little firm evidence on the role of nutritional factors. Breastfeeding, vitamins C, D and E, nicotinamide and zinc have been reported as possibly protecting from type 1 diabetes, whereas N-nitroso compounds, cow's milk, some cereals, increased linear growth, and obesity may increase the risk (Virtanen & Knip 2003).

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