Hydrolysed infant formula shows no benefit in preventing type 1 diabetes

Hydrolysed milk formula is where cow’s milk proteins are broken down into smaller pieces in the hope that they are less likely to activate the immune system and cause allergy.  A couple of years ago, Australian allergy experts looked at the evidence and found little or none that hydrolysed formulae gave any benefit in terms of allergy.

But there was also an idea that there was a role for hydrolysed formula in preventing type 1 diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes usually comes on in childhood and is an autoimmune disease where the child’s immune system destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas.  

There is some evidence from animal and other studies that the early introduction of cow’s milk formulae increases the risk of type 1 diabetes in children at risk (those who have a first degree relative with the condition and have a suitable tissue-type. That’s why a research group in Helsinki carried out a 15 country trial involving over 2000 susceptible infants followed up for more than 11 years.  The babies were breast fed and the trial kicked in when they were were weaned.

The found no evidence of benefit either of diabetes antibodies at age seven or of the onset of type 1 diabetes by age 11.

So parents can save their money and wean their babies onto ordinary cow’s milk formula unless their doctor suggests otherwise.

As to the prevention of type 1 diabetes, there’s still nothing available but perhaps in the future there might be a vaccine and some researchers are wondering about probiotics to change the immune system early in life.