A maternal gluten-free diet reduces inflammation and diabetes incidence in the offspring of NOD mice

  1. Axel K. Hansen1
  1. 1Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, 1871 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
  2. 2Department of Food Science, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, 1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
  3. 3Bartholin Institute, Rigshospitalet, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
  4. 4Division of Toxicology and Risk Assessment, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, 2860 Søborg, Denmark
  5. 5Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, 1307 Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. *Corresponding author: Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen, Email: camfriis{at}


Early life interventions in the intestinal environment have previously been shown to influence diabetes incidence. We therefore hypothesized that a gluten-free (GF) diet, known to decrease type 1 diabetes incidence, only during pregnancy and lactation period would protect against development of diabetes. Pregnant non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice were fed GF or standard diet, until all pups were weaned to standard diet. The early life GF environment dramatically decreased diabetes incidence and insulitis. Gut microbiota analysis by 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed a pronounced difference between both mothers and their offspring, characterized by increased Akkermansia, Proteobacteria, and TM7 in the GF diet group. In addition, pancreatic FoxP3 regulatory T cells were increased in GF fed offspring; as were M2 macrophage gene markers and tight junction-related genes in the gut, while intestinal gene expression of proinflammatory cytokines was reduced. Increased proportion of T cells in the pancreas expressing the mucosal integrin α4β7 suggests that the mechanism involve increased trafficking of gut-primed immune cells to the pancreas. In conclusion, GF diet during fetal and early postnatal life reduces development of diabetes. The mechanism may involve a changed gut microbiota and shifts to a less proinflammatory immunological milieu in the gut and pancreas.

  • Received October 18, 2013.
  • Accepted March 27, 2014.

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