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Question:

From Toronto, Ontario, Canada:

I recently came across this article, and I have a few questions about it.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - Women who eat root vegetables and potatoes during pregnancy may expose their children to a greater risk of type one diabetes, an Australian study has found. Scientists at Melbourne's Monash University say a common toxin which causes potato scab in root vegetables may affect the development of the foetus' pancreas in pregnant women, and act as a trigger for type one diabetes in genetically pre-disposed children. Researchers carried out tests on a group of mice susceptible to diabetes and found that those whose mothers were fed Bafilomycin, a toxin which commonly occurs in root vegetables, were more likely to have a damaged pancreas and develop diabetes. University professor of biochemistry Paul Zimmet said 70 per cent of the susceptible mice normally developed diabetes over 30 weeks. However he said, of the mice whose mothers were fed Bafilomycin, all developed diabetes much more quickly."The ones that we fed Bafilomycin 100 per cent had diabetes by 20 weeks, " he said Prof Zimmet, who is also the director of the Melbourne-based International Diabetes Institute, said linking the disease to the human diet would change thinking about the cause of type one diabetes, also known as insulin dependent diabetes. Insulin dependent diabetes affects 15 per cent of Australians and is most commonly diagnosed in children aged five to seven years of age or at puberty."We think people have been looking in the wrong place, " Prof Zimmet said."(They've been) looking at the events during childhood rather than what happened to the mother during pregnancy." Prof Zimmet said the Bafilomycin toxin was common in root vegetables and could not be destroyed through cooking. He advised pregnant women with a history of type one diabetes in their family to carefully peel vegetables and remove "scabs".

What is Bafilomycin? If I am planning a pregnancy should I cut out this sort of vegetable before I get pregnant? Should I be concerned about eating root vegetables when I am pregnant?

Answer:

This is a novel observation and one that has not been discussed a great deal by those in the business of providing care to people with diabetes. However, the paper refers to a toxin that causes the scabs on root vegetables. It is not broken down with the cooking process. It appears that the precaution they are suggesting would be to peel the root vegetables so as to remove the toxin and decrease in risk to the fetus. The problem with generalizing this observation is that it is in an animal model of susceptibility to type 1 diabetes. Application to humans is another level and cannot be assured. However, if you are concerned about this, and you have a history of type 1 diabetes in the family, it sounds like they are suggesting that you peel the vegetables carefully.

JTL

[Editor's comment: I could not find a direct link to that article at the web site of Monash University JSH]

DTQ-20031210172924
Original posting 8 Jan 2004
Posted to Family Planning

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:54
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