Other Environmental Factors

In a medical context, the term "environment" refers to the forces or factors outside a person's body, or even any factor influencing a disease that lacks a genetic source. Researchers have studied many possible environmental factors that might contribute to or protect against the development or progression of type 1 diabetes, from viruses, to the intestinal immune system, and even to weight gain. This section summarizes some of these findings.

Some environmental factors could be involved in the development of type 1 diabetes even if they are not responsible for the rising incidence of type 1 diabetes in children. Diabetes, after all, has been around since ancient times (Christopoulou-Aletra and Papavramidou 2008). Either increasing risk factors or decreasing protective factors could lead to rising rates of disease, and indeed, many different environmental factors may interact to affect disease incidence.

Toxic chemicals are also considered environmental factors, and are addressed in the environmental chemicals section. Very few studies that focus on type 1 diabetes include measurements of chemical exposures, or even mention environmental chemicals as possible factors in disease development at all. Yet, a variety of environmental factors that have been associated with type 1 diabetes may be influenced by chemical exposures, from viruses, to the intestinal immune system, and even to weight gain. These interactions are included on the pages within this section.

Janet's Spanish grandfather and great-grandfather had diabetes. She developed type 1 at age 14, while living near a dioxin-emitting chemical plant. She also has a leaky gut and could not tolerate cow's milk formula as a baby. It may be that various environmental and genetic factors interact to affect the development of type 1 diabetes.