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Diabetologia. 2014 Sep;57(9):1770-80. doi: 10.1007/s00125-014-3265-1. Epub 2014 May 29.

Dietary gluten and the development of type 1 diabetes.

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  • 1The Bartholin Institute, Rigshospitalet, Ole Maal√łes Vej 5, section 3733, Copenhagen, Denmark,


Gluten proteins differ from other cereal proteins as they are partly resistant to enzymatic processing in the intestine, resulting in a continuous exposure of the proteins to the intestinal immune system. In addition to being a disease-initiating factor in coeliac disease (CD), gluten intake might affect type 1 diabetes development. Studies in animal models of type 1 diabetes have documented that the pathogenesis is influenced by diet. Thus, a gluten-free diet largely prevents diabetes in NOD mice while a cereal-based diet promotes diabetes development. In infants, amount, timing and mode of introduction have been shown to affect the diabetogenic potential of gluten, and some studies now suggest that a gluten-free diet may preserve beta cell function. Other studies have not found this effect. There is evidence that the intestinal immune system plays a primary role in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes, as diabetogenic T cells are initially primed in the gut, islet-infiltrating T cells express gut-associated homing receptors, and mesenteric lymphocytes transfer diabetes from NOD mice to NOD/severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice. Thus, gluten may affect diabetes development by influencing proportional changes in immune cell populations or by modifying the cytokine/chemokine pattern towards an inflammatory profile. This supports an important role for gluten intake in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes and further studies should be initiated to clarify whether a gluten-free diet could prevent disease in susceptible individuals or be used with newly diagnosed patients to stop disease progression.

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