Diet and genes in the development of autoimmune diabetes

The incidence of autoimmune diabetes is increasing, but there is a lack of established risk factors to target in disease prevention. Diet has been suggested to play a role, but this knowledge is still very limited.

Diabetes is a chronic disease and patients are at high risk of severe complications and mortality. Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common subtype and diet is known to be of importance in the development of the disease. Autoimmune diabetes is rarer and accounts for about 10% of all diabetes. It includes type 1 diabetes, which is the predominant subtype in children. Among adults, the most common form of autoimmune diabetes is latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA).

The incidence of autoimmune diabetes is increasing alarmingly; childhood type 1 diabetes in Europe increases by 3% annually. This increase is most likely explained by changes in environmental or lifestyle risk factors, such as diet. A role of diet has been implicated in childhood type 1 diabetes but no risk factors have been firmly established. Regarding adult onset autoimmune diabetes, studies on diet are rare.

The aim of this research project is to contribute with new knowledge on the role of diet, and the influence of genetic factors, in the development of autoimmune diabetes. The overall goal is to identify factors that may lead to preventive strategies and, ultimately, reduced disease burden.

The project is a collaboration between researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Lund University, Linköping University, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and University of Cambridge. To shed much-needed light on potential dietary risk factors for adult-onset autoimmune diabetes, the project uses data from several established cohorts: the Swedish ESTRID Study (Epidemiological Risk Factors for LADA and Type 2 Diabetes), the Norwegian HUNT Study, as well as the EPIC-InterAct Study which includes prospective data from eight European countries. Based on data from a large Swedish birth cohort, the ABIS Study (All Babies in Southeast Sweden), we will explore the role of dietary factors in the development of childhood type 1 diabetes.



Josefin Edwall Löfvenborg

Postdoctoral researcher