Characterization of the Young Azorean Portuguese Population with Diabetes Type 1: Study of Nutritional and Environmental Risk Factors
Introduction: Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a metabolic, systemic and chronic disease caused by an absolute deficiency of insulin. Despite the genetic influence for the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic β-cells, only less than 10% of genetically susceptible individuals progress to clinical disease. This implies that environmental factors are implicated in the pathogenesis of T1DM. This study aimed to characterize the Azorean youth population with T1DM, assessing their exposure to environmental risk factors for T1DM during pregnancy and the period prior to diagnosis of the disease.
Methods: Methodology was based on telephonic interviews to the mothers of 53 youngsters with T1DM aged less than 20 years of age and residing in the Azores. The survey applied contemplated the possible environmental and nutritional risk factors for the development of T1DM, from birth to the time of diagnosis.
Results: Results showed that the Azorean youth with T1DM were diagnosed, on average, at younger ages, despite the described in the international literature. The population studied showed a low frequency (62.3%) and short duration of exclusive breastfeeding (mean of 2.1 months) and sizable frequency of early introduction of solid foods (30.2%), gluten (54.7%) and cow’s milk (24.5%). These factors may be associated with an increased risk of developing T1DM. Mothers with less education were the ones who breastfed in lower frequency and did it for shorter period and sooner introduced solid foods and cow’s milk in the diet of their children. Azorean children who were not breastfed and those who did it for a shorter period tended to be diagnosed earlier.
Conclusion: In conclusion, these results reinforce the importance of developing assertive strategies for compliance with feeding recommendations in the 1st year of life, particularly aimed to mothers with less education.
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