Cow's milk exposure and type I diabetes mellitus. A critical overview of the clinical literature

Diabetes Care. 1994 Jan;17(1):13-9. doi: 10.2337/diacare.17.1.13.


Objective: To critically review and summarize the clinical evidence relating a short duration of breast-feeding or early cow's milk exposure to insulin-dependent (type I) diabetes.

Research design and methods: All relevant citations retrieved through comprehensive searching of the medical literature were critically reviewed and analyzed. Those case-control studies that minimized the possibility of bias were meta-analyzed to determine overall odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

Results: Ecological and time-series studies consistently showed a relationship between type I diabetes and either cow's milk exposure or diminished breast-feeding. In the case-control studies, patients with type I diabetes were more likely to have been breast-fed for < 3 months (overall OR 1.43; 95% CI 1.15-1.77) and to have been exposed to cow's milk before 4 months (overall OR 1.63; 95% CI 1.22-2.17). Slightly lower ORs were obtained when all of the case-control studies were meta-analyzed in a sensitivity analysis.

Conclusions: Early cow's milk exposure may be an important determinant of subsequent type I diabetes and may increase the risk approximately 1.5 times.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cattle
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Milk / adverse effects*
  • Registries