Yes, say researchers at the University of South Florida in Tampa. In a recent study involving roughly 7,500 children in the United States and Europe, they discovered that adding good bacteria called probiotics to early feedings reduced the risk of type 1 diabetes in kids who are genetically predisposed (meaning their genes put them at a higher risk of developing the chronic condition).
In this study, Dr. Ulla Uusitalo and her team discovered that among high-risk babies, newborns who received additional good bacteria in the first 27 days of life were 60% less likely to develop type 1 diabetes. The early supplementation is critical, say researchers, who point out that giving the babies probiotics beyond the 27-day mark did not seem to be as beneficial with regard to reduced type 1 diabetes risk.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body—specifically the pancreas—produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that transports glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream to different parts of the body where it is needed for energy. Among the many factors that may contribute to a child being born with type 1 diabetes, scientists speculate that an imbalance of bacteria in the gut may play a role.
While they agree further research is needed, study authors believe early supplementation with additional good bacteria may help establish a healthy microbiome, which in turn may support health later in life.