During pregnancy, women who have a diet high in gluten could increase the risk of their children suffering from diabetes, a study suggested. The research examined tens of thousands of pregnancies and found an increased risk of Type 1 diabetes.
Previous studies among animals have shown a gluten-free maternal diet during pregnancy almost “completely prevented” type 1 diabetes among offspring, experts said.
The team of international researchers set out to examine whether a similar effect was found in humans.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), examined data on more than 63,000 pregnant women from Denmark.
The women, who were enrolled into the Danish National Birth Cohort between January 1996 and October 2002, completed a food frequency questionnaire during their 25 weeks of pregnancy, which measured the amount of gluten they consumed.
The participants were followed up until 2016 to track the development of type 1 diabetes among their children.
The experts found that the average gluten intake among women was 13g per day, ranging from 7g to 20g.
They identified 247 cases of type 1 diabetes among children after an average follow-up period of 15.6 years.
The authors concluded that the risk of type 1 diabetes in children “increased proportionately” with maternal gluten intake.
Gluten diet not recommended during pregnancy
The authors said more evidence is needed before health officials should make recommendations to change pregnant women’s diets.
In a linked editorial, researchers at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland wrote: “Given that a causal association between maternal gluten intake and type 1 diabetes in children has not yet been established, it is too early to change dietary recommendations on gluten intake in pregnancy.
“However, doctors, researchers and the public should be aware of the possibility that consuming large amounts of gluten during pregnancy might be harmful, and that further studies are needed to confirm or rule out these findings, and to explore possible underlying mechanisms.”