A recent paper from Finland shows that drinking cow's milk is associated with getting juvenile diabetes and the earlier children start to drink milk and the more they drink, they more likely they are to develop diabetes. (SM Virtanen et al: .Diabetologia 1994(April);37(4):381-387)
Insulin drives sugar, called glucose, from your bloodstream into your cells. When you don't have enough insulin, sugar cannot pass readily into your cells and it accumulates in and damages cells. There are two possible explanations for the association between drinking cow's milk and getting juvenile diabetes. One is that the fat in cow's milk may start diabetes in genetically susceptible children. The other more likely explanation is immunological. Your body produces T cells to kill germs. Doctors have known for years that the T cells of diabetic children destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Milk may contain a surface protein that is similar to pancreatic cells that produce insulin. Researchers at Stanford and UCLA have shown that a common Coxsackie virus has the same surface area, called GAD, as pancreatic cells (glutamic acid decarboxylase). When a susceptible child is infected with the coxsackie virus, his immune system produces cells that kill the GAD in pancreatic cells as well as the GAD in Coxsackie virus because they have the same surface areas. (Nature November, 1993) If this research can be confirmed by other studies, doctors should be able to prevent juvenile diabetes by picking out the people who are likely to develop that disease and injecting them with the GAD protein. A similar procedure is used to prevent a type of red cell bursting in newborns called RH incompatibility.
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