Association between Bioactive Molecules in Breast Milk and Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2020 Feb;20(1):e5-e12. doi: 10.18295/squmj.2020.20.01.002. Epub 2020 Mar 9.


The association between breastfeeding and type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is controversial. However, several recent studies have established a link between these two factors, necessitating a need to review this subject to raise public awareness. Current research indicates that breast milk contains a variety of bioactive substances including immunoglobulins, oligosaccharides, insulin, lactoferrin, lysozyme, cytokines, epidermal growth factors, leukocytes, nucleotides, beneficial bacteria and vitamins. Such substances strengthen the breastfeeding infant's immune system, both directly, by increasing gut microbiota diversity and attacking harmful bacteria and pro-inflammatory molecules, and indirectly, by increasing thymus performance. Accordingly, a lack of or inadequate breastfeeding may predispose infants to several autoimmune disorders, including T1DM. Nursing mothers and caregivers are therefore advised to follow optimal breastfeeding practices prior to introducing complementary foods.

Keywords: Autoimmune Diseases; Breastfeeding; Immunoglobulins; Oligosaccharides; Review Literature; Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Factors / analysis*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*


  • Biological Factors