Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys its own healthy cells. In this instance, the specific cells being attacked are called beta cells, which are responsible for producing insulin in the pancreas. There is still a great deal of research to be done before we fully understand what causes type 1 diabetes; however, scientists have identified some potential onset factors and triggers. Let’s explore further.


Genetics plays a role in the development of type 1 diabetes. Researchers believe that certain genetic combinations make some individuals more likely to develop T1D than others. In fact, having a family member with T1D increases your risk of developing it too—but only slightly. Only 5-10% of people with type 1 diabetes have a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) who also has it.

Reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8029525/

Environmental Factors

Some environmental factors may also increase one’s risk for developing type 1 diabetes. Exposure to certain viruses and bacteria can trigger the onset of T1D in those genetically predisposed to it. Additionally, studies suggest that early childhood exposure to cow’s milk may also play a role in increasing susceptibility to T1D in those at risk due to genetics or family history. This is why many healthcare professionals recommend delaying introduction of cow’s milk until after age one for those at higher risk for developing T1D.

Reference: https://www.nature.com/articles/nutd201716


It’s now becoming increasingly clear that contracting a certain family of viruses could be an underlying factor in the development of Type 1 diabetes. Human Enteroviruses (HEVs), which include the polio virus, have been closely linked to this autoimmune condition. Exposure to HEVs is often found among those recently diagnosed with Type 1 or who’ve had it for some time and studies suggest kids whose mothers pick up these infections during pregnancy may also face greater risk. While further research is needed into how exactly HEV exposure plays out, what we know so far paints intriguing connections between viral infection and autoimmunity – shedding new light on possible preventative measures against Type 1 diabetes in our future.

Reference: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2021.706964/full


Our inner workings are home to a complex network of various microbes. These microscopic life forms, known as the microbiome, have been found mainly in our gut and can profoundly influence many aspects of health such as immune system function and sugar metabolism. It is believed that certain factors – from caesarean birth methods through antibiotic use to childhood diets – may shape how diverse or powerful this microbial ecosystem becomes; recent studies show evidence linking an altered microbiome with Type 1 diabetes diagnosis among children.

Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220847/

TrialNet Research

To better understand what causes type 1 diabetes and how it can be prevented or slowed down, researchers participate in studies such as TrialNet. Through clinical trials such as these, scientists hope to gain insight into why some individuals develop T1D while others do not and how they can help prevent or reduce its progression in those already living with it.

Unfortunately, there is still much we don’t understand about what causes type 1 diabetes, but researchers have identified some potential onset factors and triggers associated with the condition. We know that genetics plays a role and that exposure to certain viruses and bacteria may increase one’s risk of developing this autoimmune disorder; additionally, early childhood exposure to cow’s milk may also play a role for those at higher risk due to genetics or family history. Clinical trials such as TrialNet help us better understand what causes type 1 diabetes and how it can be prevented or slowed down so that someday soon we will have more answers about this chronic illness!