Preliminary research released on Thursday shows an interesting link between diet and pregnancy. According to a new study, eating too much gluten while pregnant may be linked to increased risk of the child developing type 1 diabetes later in life. It should be noted, though, that the research is very early, so don’t clean out those cabinets just yet.
The study was done at the Bartholin Institute in Copenhagen and involved data from more than 67,500 pregnant women in Denmark, according to medical journal The BMJ. Researchers asked the women how much gluten they were eating at 25 weeks of pregnancy, and then followed up with the children born for an average of 15 years, according to the study. Over time, 247 children developed type 1 diabetes, and the incidence was twice as high among women with the highest gluten intake. Those results were enough for researchers to suspect gluten as a cause, according to the study’s synopsis.
So what is considered too high when it comes to gluten intake? This study found that women with the highest result of children with type 1 diabetes self-reported eating up to 20 grams of gluten per day, according to The Guardian. That’s compared to about 7 grams per day at the lowest levels. (For reference, a slice of wheat bread or 1/2 cup of wheat-based pasta has between two and two-and-a-half grams of gluten, according to Coeliac UK) The Guardian also reported that researchers asked women what their diet was like for the preceding four weeks, and also factored in things like lifestyle and overall health.
Though gluten intake and the risk of diabetes seem to be linked, the researchers also warned that the studies results are really too small to form any medical guidance, as The Guardian reported. Still, with gluten implicated in everything from abdominal pain to depression, according to Healthline, it’s never a bad idea to be aware of how much you’re taking in.
To discover where gluten may be hiding in your diet, be sure to read the ingredient labels, as the Celiac Disease Foundation advised. Check for things like wheat, barley and rye, malt, brewer’s yeast, wheat starch, and triticale. Most grain-based foods like pasta and breads will contain gluten, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, but also suspect it in things like sauces and gravies that may use flour as a thickening agent.
An editorial written alongside the study in The BMJ explained that the results are of particular interest because, thus far, scientists have been unable to identify why exactly type 1 diabetes is on the rise in the western world. Research in animals has shown that a gluten free diet during pregnancy results in a marked reduction in disease in offspring, but studies in humans have been inconclusive, as the editorial explained. The authors pointed out that there may be other factors — like an overall unhealthy diet — that could result in a higher predisposition toward diabetes.
Celiac disease is the most common condition affected by gluten, according to the American Diabetes Association, which noted that about 10 percent of people with type 1 diabetes also have celiac disease. The ADA advises that when removing gluten from a diet, there are still plenty of things to eat that are healthy whole grains and carbohydrates. These include potatoes and sweet potatoes, corn, buckwheat, flax, brown rich, soy, and more. Additionally, of course, there are many gluten free products available now in stores.
While this new study’s results might be slightly inconclusive, it may be a positive step in the fight against type 1 diabetes. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder to be diligent and aware when eating for two.