Last night a neighbor of mine called to say she heard on the news that toddlers who drink too much milk are at an extremely greater risk of getting juvenile diabetes. My daughter does not have the disease, but I felt I could get some information from your service, if possible.
My daughter is 20 months and eats very well, but she also drinks upwards of 28 to 30 ounces of milk a day. I am extremely worried that I have put her at risk of developing diabetes. (My grandmother had diabetes.)
We really do not know what causes diabetes to develop. There are many theories regarding something in the environment that triggers diabetes in individuals who are genetically prone to develop the disease. One recent theory is that early exposure to cow's milk protein may trigger an attack by antibodies on the insulin producing islet cells in the pancreas. It is very difficult to prove this. If cow's milk exposure does contribute to developing diabetes, it is felt that exposure in the newborn period is the critical time. Opinion is divided whether this is truly a contributing factor.
If you are interested in reading medical articles, you can find several references in a previous question-and-answer. Another recent article to add to that list is from the Journal of the American Medical Association, August 28th, 1996, pages 609-614, written by Dr. Jill Norris.
I am not aware of any evidence that drinking cow's milk after the first year of life can increase the risk of developing diabetes.
Original posting 20 Sep 96
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