Some research has suggested formula containing cow's milk protein could raise an infant's risk of later acquiring type 1 diabetes. A new study by Marcia F. Goldfarb of Anatek-EP, a protein research laboratory in Portland, Me., posits a mechanism that may be at play. She notes that a newborn's immature immune system may destroy the human protein glycodelin in a mistaken effort to eliminate the similar cow's milk protein. This error could result in the overproduction of T cells, which help to protect the body against infections. The overproduction could attack the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and trigger diabetes, she wrote in the June 6 Journal of Proteome Research of the American Chemical Society. A large, international randomized trial called TIGR now under way should help settle the question of cow's milk and diabetes risk.
This article was originally published with the title "A Milk-Diabetes Connection?" in Scientific American 299, 1, 32 (July 2008)