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Vegetables During Pregnancy May Protect Against Type 1 Diabetes


Here is yet another reason to eat vegetables: a new study finds that women who ate vegetables daily during pregnancy reduced the risk of type 1 diabetes in their children. This is the first study to demonstrate a link between vegetable consumption during pregnancy and the risk of the development of type 1 diabetes.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation reports that each year in the United States more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which translates into 40 children per day. People who have type 1 diabetes require insulin to stay alive, but it does not cure diabetes nor prevent the eventual and often devastating complications of the disease, which may include blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, heart attack, stroke, pregnancy difficulties, and amputation.

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The new study, which appears in Pediatric Diabetes, defined “vegetables” as all but root vegetables (e.g., turnips, potatoes, carrots). The researchers collected blood samples from 5,724 five-year-old children to determine the levels of the antibodies that indicate the autoimmune response; namely, glutamic acid decarboxylase, tyrosine phosphatase, and insulin autoantibodies.

Of all the children tested, 191 (3.3%) had elevated levels of these antibodies or had fully developed type 1 diabetes. The levels of these risk markers for diabetes were up to twice as common in children whose mothers rarely ate vegetables during pregnancy, while the risk was lowest among children whose mothers claimed to have eaten vegetables daily. Overall, there was a 70 percent increased risk of developing diabetes among the children whose mothers had eaten vegetables only three to five times weekly compared with those who ate them daily.

The investigators note that they cannot say for certain that the vegetables provided the protective benefit, but “nor can this protection be explained by other measured dietary factors or other known risk factors,” stated head author Hilda Brekke of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg. Several previous studies have indicated that antioxidants (vegetables are rich sources of these nutrients) such as vitamins C and E and polyphenols provide some protection against type 1 diabetes. The results of the current study appear to support the previous findings, although further research is needed to determine their validity.

Brekke HK, Ludvigsson J. Pediatric Diabetes 2009 Sept. 16
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation