There aren’t many known risk factors for type 1 diabetes, though researchers continue to find new possibilities.
Known Risk Factors
- A family history. Anyone with a parent or siblings with type 1 diabetes has a slightly increased risk of developing the condition.
- Genetic susceptibility. The presence of certain genes indicates an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes. In some cases — usually through a clinical trial — genetic testing can be done to determine if a child who has a family history of type 1 diabetes is at increased risk of developing the condition.
Possible Risk Factors
Possible risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:
- Viral exposure. Exposure to Epstein-Barr virus, coxsackie virus, rubella or cytomegalovirus may trigger the autoimmune destruction of the islet cells, or the virus may directly infect the islet cells.
- Low vitamin D levels. Research suggests that vitamin D may protect against type 1 diabetes. However, early intake of cow’s milk — a common source of vitamin D — has been linked to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes.
- Other dietary factors. Drinking water that contains nitrates may increase the risk of type 1 diabetes. The timing of the introduction of cereal into a baby’s diet also may affect a child’s risk of type 1 diabetes. One clinical trial found that between ages 4 and 7 months appears to be the optimal time for introducing cereal.