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Mice Study Shows Maternal Gluten-free Diet Reduces Development of Diabetes


A gluten-free diet in pregnant mice lowers diabetes rates in their offspring. Photo: CC--HarshLight

Celiac.com 07/13/2016 - A really interesting study about gluten-free diets in mice just popped up over at the medical journal Diabetes, that has implications for both diabetes and celiac disease.

The study found that a maternal gluten-free diet reduces inflammation and diabetes rates in the offspring of non-obese diabetic mice.

The study was conducted by a research team that included Camilla H.F. Hansen, Łukasz Krych, Karsten Buschard, Stine B. Metzdorff, Christine Nellemann, Lars H. Hansen, Dennis S. Nielsen, Hanne Frøkiær, Søren Skov, and Axel K. Hansen. They are variously affiliated with the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark, the Department of Food Science, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, the Bartholin Institute, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark, the Division of Toxicology and Risk Assessment, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Søborg, Denmark, and the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Researchers have known for some time that early life interventions in the intestinal conditions have been shown to influence diabetes rates in mice. For example, a gluten-free diet in known to decrease type 1 diabetes incidence. Their team hypothesized that a gluten-free diet for pregnant mice only during pregnancy and lactation period would protect offspring mice against development of diabetes.

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The team fed pregnant non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice either a gluten-free or a standard diet, until all mice pups were weaned to standard diet. The early gluten-free mice showed significantly lower rates of diabetes and insulitis. Gut microbiota analysis by 16S rRNA gene sequencing showed significantly increased Akkermansia, Proteobacteria, and TM7 between both mothers and their offspring in the GF diet group.

Moreover, the gluten-free offspring showed increased pancreatic FoxP3 regulatory T cells, along with an increase in M2 macrophage gene markers and tight junction-related genes in the gut, coupled with lower intestinal gene expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Higher numbers of T cells in the pancreas expressing the mucosal integrin α4β7 suggests that the mechanism involve increased trafficking of gut-primed immune cells to the pancreas.

This study supports the conclusion that a gluten-free diet during fetal and early postnatal life reduces development of diabetes. This may be due to changes in gut microbiota and better inflammatory and immunological conditions in the gut and pancreas.

So, could it be that human mothers who eat a gluten-free diet through weening can impart the same kind of protection against diabetes? Clearly more studies need to be done until we can know for sure, but following a gluten-free diet while pregnant probably wouldn’t cause any harm to the mother or the baby.

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It took me 20 years or more Barry so I wouldn't claim any great insight on this I had a 'eureka' moment, up until then I was walking around with multiple symptoms and not connecting any dots whatsoever. It is very, very difficult to diagnose and that's something that's reflected in so many of the experiences detailed here. A food diary may help in your case. It helped me to connect the gaps between eating and onset. It could help you to track any gluten sources should you go gluten free. It is possible for your reactions to change over time. As to whether its celiac, that's something you could explore with your doctor, stay on gluten if you choose to go that way. best of luck! Matt

I took Zoloft once. Loved it until it triggered microscopic colitis (colonoscopy diagnosed it). Lexapro did the same. However, I have a family member who is fiagnosed celiac and tolerates Celexa well.

Thanks for the update and welcome to the club you never wanted to join! ?

Jmg, I am glad you were able to come to the realisation that the culprit was in fact gluten. For me its not so simple. IBS runs in the family, as do several food intolerances. Its just in the last while that I can finally reach the conclusion that for me its gluten. The fact that it is a delayed effect-several hours after, made it harder. Friday I had some KFC, felt great. Saturday evening felt sleepy, Sunday felt awful and my belly was huge. I think I have gone from mildly sensitive to full blown celiac over the course of five years-if that possible. Thanks for all your help.

I thought I'd take a moment to provide an update, given how much lurking I've done on these forums the last year. It took a long time, but I've since had another gastroenterologist visit, many months of eating tons of bread, and an endoscopy where they took several biopsies. I have to say, the endoscopy was a super quick and efficient experience. During the procedure they let me know that it looked somewhat suspicious, causing them to take many biopsies, and then did comprehensive blood work. About a month later, I received a call telling me that the TTG came back positive a second time, and that the biopsies were a mix of negative (normal) results and some that were positive (showing blunting of the villi). As a result, I've been given a celiac diagnosis. It's been about a month now that I've been eating gluten free. Not sure if I'm really feeling all that different yet. It's a bit twisted to say, but in some way I was hoping for this diagnosis ? thinking how nice it would be to have an explanation, a plan of action, and feeling better. It's certainly no small change to be totally gluten free, but I'm hopeful.