Nurturing a healthy gut in children as young as 12 months may help to mitigate the onset of type 1 diabetes later in their lives, a new study reveals.

Type 1 diabetes affects about 1 in 400 children and young adults under 20 years of age. A lot of research has gone into the possible causes and ways for early detection of type 1 diabetes.

What causes type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction to the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

Some people are at a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes if they have certain genes passed on from their parents. Many of them may not develop the condition even if they have the genes.

A person's diet and lifestyle habits cannot cause type 1 diabetes. However, studies have shown that an environmental trigger, such as a virus, plays a role in the development of type 1 diabetes in combination with high-risk genes.

The relevance of the new study

The study, published in Diabetologia last week, reveals the possibility of predicting the chances of type 1 diabetes from an infant's gut microbiome.

The team compared the gut bacteria of babies who had type 1 diabetes with those of a control group, who remained healthy up to the age of 20, and found significant differences in the composition of their microbiome by the age of 12 months.

"Our findings indicate that the gut of infants who go on to develop type 1 diabetes is notably different from healthy babies," study co-lead Malin Bélteky said. "This discovery could be used to help identity infants at [the] highest risk of developing type 1 diabetes before or during the first stage of disease and could offer the opportunity to bolster a healthy gut microbiome to prevent the disease from becoming established."

The children who later developed type 1 diabetes had an abundance of Enterococcus, Gemella, and Hungatella bacteria, as well as Bacteroides and Porphyromonas in their gut. Bacteroides and Porphyromonas are known to promote inflammation.

Meanwhile, the healthy children had Anaerostipes, Flavonifractor and Ruminococcaceae UBA1819, and Eubacterium in their gut. These bacteria produce a short-chain fatty acid responsible for reducing inflammation and fueling the gut lining.

"The possibility of preventing disease onset by altering or promoting a 'healthy' gut microbiome is appealing," the research team said.

The study reveals the possibility of predicting the chances of developing type 1 diabetes from an infant's gut microbiome. pixabay