RotensteinBy Deborah Rotenstein, M.D. — Pediatric Alliance, Endocrinology Division

Type 1 diabetes, which occurs mostly in children, has been increasing worldwide at a rate of about 3% per year!  Researchers from Colorado recently reported in JAMA Pediatrics  a link between diabetes and the timing of the introduction of  solid food in babies.  The data in this study applies only to children at risk of developing type 1 diabetes mellitus  (T1DM) — children with first-degree relatives with diabetes ( mother, father, sister or brother of the baby).

The study suggests that the safest age to introduce solid foods in children is between 4 and 5 months of age.  Those at-risk children, where foods were introduced earlier than 4 months of age, or later than 6 months of age, were at greater risk of developing Type 1 diabetes.  Specifically, starting fruit in these babies before 4 months of age, or rice and oats (non-gluten foods) at 6 months or later posed the greatest risk.  Interestingly (though perhaps not surprisingly), breastfeeding at the time of first exposure to wheat or barley protected those children from developing T1DM.

This study reinforces the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which encourages exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed by the introduction of solid foods.  However, it should be emphasized that breastfeeding should continue while these new foods are added.  The study also provides a good reason for parents NOT to start any solid foods before 4 months old.

Summary of study results here.

More PediaBlog on when to start first foods here.