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Scientists have raised hope for the prevention of early-onset diabetes in children after a fibre-rich diet was found to protect animals from the disease.
More than 20 million people worldwide are affected by juvenile, or type 1, diabetes, which takes hold when the immune system turns on the body and destroys pancreatic cells that make the hormone insulin.
It is unclear what causes the immune system to malfunction, but patients are usually diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before the age of 14 and must have daily shots of insulin to control their blood sugar levels.
Working with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, researchers at Monash University in Melbourne created a diet rich in fibre that is broken down in the lower intestine into molecules known as short-chain fatty acids.
The team, led by immunologist Charles Mackay, believe that short-chain fatty acids called butyrate and acetate dampen down the immune system, and have the potential to treat a range of disorders from asthma to irritable bowel syndrome.