While researchers know that type 1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells, what they are still uncertain about are the exact causes of this process. They know that genetics play a role, yet there is not a single gene responsible for the disease; there are several genes that are believed to contribute. Furthermore, they are not convinced that the disease is entirely genetic, and have reason to believe that environmental factors are to blame as well. But once again, there is not a single environmental risk that has a significantly greater impact than others.
A recent study examined several environmental risk factors such as “air pollution, diet, childhood obesity, the duration of breastfeeding, the introduction of cow’s milk, infections, and many others” and yet researchers still do not have any definitive answers. What they do know is that the incidence of type 1 diabetes has increased over the past 30 years by 3 percent year over year, and this change is too significant to be caused by genetics alone.
Using a variety of modeling, they evaluated the impact of specific environmental factors over time. But the simulated data did not pinpoint one factor that stood out above the others and had a stronger impact on diabetes risk. It is likely that a combination of environmental factors is at play in conjunction with genetic risk. More research is needed to further investigate potential risks and protective factors when it comes to type 1 diabetes.
These findings may inspire other researchers to dig more deeply into environmental factors and their impact on disease development and progression. Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), though not involved with this study, provides critical funding for early-career scientists to pursue novel research studies related to type 1 diabetes to enhance understanding as well as prevention, treatment, and management of the disease. The goal is ultimately to find a cure. Learn more about current projects and how to help by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.