Objective: To identify environmental factors involved in the etiology of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM).
Research design and methods: An estimated 90% of all incident cases of IDDM in patients 0-14 years of age in New South Wales, Australia, were ascertained over 18 months. For each IDDM patient, two age- and sex-matched control subjects were randomly selected from the population. Past environmental exposures were determined with a questionnaire completed by the parents. Response rates were 92% for the IDDM patients (217 of 235) and 55% for the control subjects (258 of 470). The relative risk associated with each exposure was estimated with the odds ratio (OR) adjusted for confounding factors using multiple logistic regression.
Results: The introduction of cow's milk-based infant formula into the diet before 3 months of age was associated with an increased risk (OR 1.52, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04-2.24). Exclusive breast-feeding for > or = 3 months was associated with a protective effect (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.45-0.97). High dietary intake of cow's milk protein in the 12 months before the onset of diabetic symptoms was also associated with an increased risk (OR 1.84, 95% CI 1.12-3.00). A recent infection (during the 3 months before onset of diabetic symptoms) was more common in the patients than the control subjects (OR 2.92, 95% CI 1.96-4.35), as was day care attendance before the age of 3 (OR 1.73, 95% CI 1.00-3.00). When two age-groups, defined by the median age at onset of diabetes, were compared, the associations with early infant-feeding were stronger among the younger group (< 9.2 years), and associations with recent diet and recent infection were stronger among the older group (> or = 9.2 years).
Conclusions: These results indicate an increased risk of IDDM associated with early dietary exposure to cow's milk-containing formula, short duration of exclusive breast-feeding, high intake of cow's milk protein in the recent diet, recent infection, and early attendance at day care.