Type 1 diabetes is now widely thought to be an organ-specific autoimmune disease. Diabetes autoimmunity is estimated that it affects nearly a million people in the US. The disease commonly begins in childhood, adolescents, or young adult years. It is more prevalent among females than males.

Diabetes autoimmunity results when the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. As a result, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is the hormone that allows sugar to enter the cells of the body so that the cells can use it as energy. Without it, blood sugar levels in the blood become too high. This in turn has serious effects on the body overtime.

It is thought that this diabetes autoimmunity condition is inherited genetically; however, it does not affect everyone who inherits these genes. Therefore, it is now believed that it takes environmental factors to trigger this diabetes autoimmunity. Some research has shown a link between the onset of type-1 diabetes and a viral infection, according to Bio.Davidson.edu, but the triggers and causes of this autoimmune attack is not yet completely understood.


Possible Environmental Causes


Though it is not completely understood, there are several environmental factors that have been associated with type-1 diabetes onset. The first, viral infections have appeared to initiate diabetes autoimmunity. Islet cell antibodies and other antibodies that work against insulin have been detected after mumps, rubella, measles, and chickenpox (Bio.Davidson.edu, 2000).

Some research suggests that the trigger may actually be some sort of toxin. For example, a theory currently under investigation blames toxic bacteria in the soil which infests vegetables. When eaten by people who are genetically predisposed the toxins attack pancreatic beta cells. This in turn creates an autoimmune reaction where the beta cells are targeted by antibodies as well (Everydayhealth.com, 2012).

Cows’ milk as also been discussed as a possible environmental study of the disease. The study called The Diabetes Autoimmunity Study in the Young (DAISY) found that there wasn’t a link between early exposure to cow’s milk in young children and autoimmunity. Previous studies, however, have indicated that children with diabetes autoimmunity are 60% more likely to have been exposed to cow’s milk than children that do not have the condition (Bio.Davidson.edu, 2000).


Possible Prevention of Diabetes Autoimmunity


One method of preventing diabetes autoimmunity may be the administration of vitamin D. Some studies with mice have shown that vitamin D prevented the development of diabetes autoimmunity. Another found that children taking vitamin D supplements were significantly less likely to develop type-1 diabetes auto immunity (Bio.Davidson.edu, 2000).

According to Expert-Reviews.com, it has also been suggested that diabetes can be prevented by a DNA vaccination. Vaccinations are currently being designed to protect against autoimmunity diseases such as Type 1 diabetes. Researchers have seen it work in mice prone to diabetes and expect it to be a promising approach in preventing various forms of autoimmune disease in the future.