There are no good reasons to eat gluten. There are numerous reasons to avoid gluten-containing foods. This includes babies as much as it includes adults.
Yet, parents are often encouraged to give their kids cereal once they start eating whole foods. Perhaps, these findings from The Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) will help you rethink eating it, or at least recommending it for young children.
Based on results of studying more than 80,000 children, researchers in Norway found that gluten consumption at 18 months of age dramatically increased the risk of developing Type I diabetes.
Type I vs Type II Diabetes
Type I diabetes doesn’t get as much attention as type II. Of the roughly 23 million people in the US, diagnosed with diabetes in 2016, just under 6% were diagnosed with Type I, while 91% were diagnosed with Type II. The remaining were diagnosed with other types of diabetes.
Type II Diabetes
Type II diabetes is largely preventable, and often curable, as it’s more of a lifestyle and diet related disease. Muscle loss from a lack of exercise, and excessive carbohydrate consumption are the main causes of Type II diabetes.
Intense strength training and carbohydrate restriction, along with supplementation and/or medication can often reduce or eliminate the severity of type II diabetes. At least, it can be resolved if it isn’t so severe that the type II diabetic has totally worn down his or her pancreas.
Type I Diabetes
Type I diabetes is an autoimmune condition, though. The body’s immune system perceives the beta cells of the pancreas as a pathogen and attacks them.
Without functioning beta cells, the pancreas cannot produce insulin, and the body cannot regulate blood sugar.
It isn’t a death sentence, as type I diabetics can inject insulin each day to keep blood sugar in check. However, blood sugar does need to be closely monitored throughout the day, and the diet of a type I diabetic needs to be closely managed.
Type I Diabetes, Babies, and Gluten
Type II diabetes isn’t something that happens overnight. It usually takes years of poor diet and lifestyle choices. During that time, people often ignore the signs, such as rising blood sugar levels or insulin resistance, body fat gain, fluctuating energy levels, and other symptoms.
However, the effects of type I diabetes can occur much faster, and are more significant. Especially when a child develops type I diabetes. It’s not like he or she knows enough to say, “Mom, Dad, I don’t feel right.”
So, I hope this finding from the research study I mentioned above sends a clear message to parents considering giving their kids gluten-containing foods:
The researchers found the average child at 18 months consumed almost 9 grams of gluten each day. Of course, with averages, that means some kids are consuming much more. Scary!
More Than Just Gluten
Gluten isn’t the only thing that compromises the health of a baby. The type of delivery, whether the baby is fed breast milk or formula, and the mothers diet and lifestyle during pregnancy also play a role.
For example, a study published in Nature recently looked at the gut bacteria of 600 healthy newborns, delivered vaginally or through cesarean section. Those delivered through C-section had more gut bacteria found in hospitals, many of which are pathogenic bacteria instead of healthy bacteria.
More and more research shows that the makeup of the gut bacteria affects the health of the body, and the integrity of the digestive tract. Anything that compromises the digestive tract could allow gluten to be even more problematic.
Read more: Health Benefits of Probiotics: Your Guide
Of course, sometimes a C-section is unavoidable.
I just bring it up because I’d expect babies born through C-section would have a greater risk of autoimmune issues, making the avoidance of gluten even more important. That’s just my opinion, though. I haven’t found published research to back that up.
My main point here, which I started with, is that there is not a single benefit to consuming gluten. And, there’s plenty of risk in eating it.
You can find gluten-free options of almost every food out there, including cereal, which is one the foods parents are encouraged to feed their kids as they transition to whole foods (not that I can get behind that recommendation either).
If you need more convincing to cut gluten out, check out my article Gluten and Going Gluten-Free: What You Need to Know.