Association Between Gluten Uptake in Pregnant Mothers and Children

Priyanshi Patel ‘22

Many mixed breads and rolls shot from above.
Figure 1. Increased gluten in a pregnant mother’s or child’s diet may influence the onset of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is a very common disease often occurring in childhood, with highest rates in the Nordic countries. Type 1 diabetes occurs after a destruction of pancreatic beta cells which leads to lifelong dependence on insulin treatment. There are both genetic and nongenetic factors for playing a role in the aetiology of the disease. Gluten has been hypothesized to be an environmental factor involved in the development of type 1 diabetes. Gluten may have an effect on the immune system by increasing proinflammatory cytokine production which may lead to microbial imbalance in the gut. The scientists at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health studied the relationship between maternal and offspring intake of gluten and the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in children.

Results from another Nordic group showed that the mother’s gluten intake in pregnancy was associated with offspring risk of type 1 diabetes, but there was no research done on the child’s diet and if there was an association between maternal intake and risk. Participants from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) were studied on. The scientists found that the maternal gluten intake during pregnancy did not increase the risk of type 1 diabetes in the child. They did find that gluten intake by the child at age 18 months was significantly associated with having a higher risk of type 1 diabetes.

These findings may motivate further interventional studies of gluten intake in childhood and type 1 diabetes. A child’s increased intake of gluten at a young age may increase the risk of type 1 through several mechanisms. It increases gut permeability, which causes an unusual absorption of macromolecules, and this is correlated with type 1 diabetes and is detected before clinical onset. The child’s diet in early life is very crucial for microbiota development in the child than the mother’s diet during pregnancy.



  1. A.A. Lund-Blix, et al., Maternal and child gluten intake and association with type 1 diabetes: the Norwegian mother and child cohort study. Public Library of Science Medicine,1-15 (2020). doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003032
  2. Image Retrieved from: e-royalty-free-image/689860840

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