Antibiotics Could Increase Type 1 Diabetes Risk

| September 27, 2016

I have talked before on The Real Diabetes Truth, here and here, about the way a healthy population of gut bacteria could help prevent type 1 diabetes. And how giving babies a probiotic supplement in their first four weeks of life could guard against this auto-immune form of the illness. Now, studies suggest the opposite is also true – giving children antibiotics is likely to increase their risk of type 1 diabetes.

Gut bacteria regulate the action of our immune systems, stopping them from going “off the rails” and attacking healthy body cells. And if the results of animal studies apply to humans too, some very specific fatty acids made by beneficial gut bacteria actually help the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas protect themselves against immune system attack.

Antibiotic medications kill bacteria, and they don’t distinguish friend from foe. Good gut bacteria are wiped out as well as the harmful bacteria being targeted. This “collateral damage” could have major implications when antibiotics are given to young children. In new-born babies, bacteria acquired during the birth process seem to “educate” the developing immune system to become less sensitive and better able to distinguish body cells from invading pathogens. The increasing use of antibiotics in children in the last few decades has been mirrored by the rising incidence of autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.

In studies with mice, researchers at New York University School of Medicine have shown that doses of antibiotics equivalent to those used in human children dramatically increase the risk of type 1 diabetes.1 They discovered that three-week-old, antibiotic-treated mice had an almost total loss of the kinds of friendly gut bacteria that are known to help train the immune system. As a result, the incidence of type 1 diabetes in these mice was twice that seen in untreated controls. So, do these findings only apply to mice?

Well, antibiotics have already been shown to increase a child’s risk of asthma.2 And although no studies have yet been carried out to determine whether children treated with antibiotics are more likely to develop type I diabetes, I’m prepared to eat my hat if they aren’t! In my next blog post I’ll be giving some tips for fighting infections without antibiotics – and without damaging those important gut bacteria.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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  1. Livanos AE, Greiner TU, Vangay P et al. Antibiotic-mediated gut microbiome perturbation accelerates development of type 1 diabetes in mice. Nature Microbiol. 2016; 1:16140.
  1. Marra F, Marra CA, Richardson K et al. Antibiotic use in children is associated with increased risk of asthma. Pediatrics. 2009;123(3):1003-1010.
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Category: Diabetes, Diabetes Risks

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