Prevention strategies for type 1 diabetes: a story of promising efforts and unmet expectations

Hormones (Athens). 2020 Dec;19(4):453-465. doi: 10.1007/s42000-020-00207-9. Epub 2020 May 16.


A number of studies have investigated primary and secondary prevention strategies for type 1 diabetes (T1D), since early interventions might improve long-term outcomes through the amelioration of immune processes and the preservation of beta-cell mass. Primary prevention trials focus on genetically at-risk individuals prior to the appearance of autoimmunity, whereas secondary prevention trials aim to halt the progression of complete beta-cell destruction in subjects with established islet autoimmunity (IA). Different approaches have been tested so far, focusing on both pharmaceutical (insulin and monoclonal antibodies) and non-pharmaceutical (vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and nicotinamide) interventions, as well as on environmental factors that are believed to trigger autoimmunity in T1D (cow's milk, gluten, and bovine insulin). Albeit certain strategies have displayed efficacy in reducing IA development rates, most efforts have been unsuccessful in preventing the onset of the disease in high-risk individuals. Moreover, significant heterogeneity in study designs, included populations, and explored outcomes renders the interpretation of study results challenging. The aim of this narrative review is to present and critically evaluate primary and secondary prevention strategies for T1D, seeking to fill existing knowledge gaps and providing insight into future directions.

Keywords: Environmental factors; Immunotherapy; Insulin; Prevention; Type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review