Type 1 diabetes is a disease that robs the young from a normal life by causing the destruction of their pancreas and forever forcing them to rely on insulin delivered by injection or a pump. The mystery of why the disease has become ever more prominent has led to findings on genetic predisposition and that the disease is in fact an autoimmune disease, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the pancreas and destroys beta cells that produce insulin.

With a growing amount of research, scientists do not know much about the initiating factors in the development of the disease.

Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health and the CU School of Medicine's Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes believe they have found a correlation between when solid food is introduced and the development of type 1 diabetes. Their research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that if children are given their first solid food before four months of age or after six months of age, they have an increased risk of developing the disease.

"For children who are introduced to solid food before four months of age, the risk of developing Type 1 diabetes is almost two times higher than for children introduced to solid foods at 4 or 5 months of age," said Jill Norris, MPH, Ph.D., one of the study's authors and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health. The discovery of this window aligns well with the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines for when to introduce solid food to infants' diets.

"The data suggest that parents should wait to introduce any solid foods until after the 4-month birthday," said Norris. "And when baby is ready, solid foods should be introduced by the 6-month birthday or soon after, preferably while the mother is still breast-feeding the baby, which may reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes."

The researchers say more research is warranted, especially because of specific findings in their report. They want to further investigate instances where kids may have a greater risk of type 1 diabetes if they are given their first fruits, which are high in sugar, before four months, or first eat rice and oats, which are high in carbohydrates, after six months.

The researchers also found that the introduction of solid food, accompanied by breastfeeding, reduced the risk for type 1 diabetes.

Source: Frederiksen B, Kroehl M, Lamb M, et al. Infant Exposures and Development of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. JAMA Pediatrics. 2013.