Vitamin D has been linked to reducing the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in children.

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Vitamin D has been linked to reducing the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in children

Vitamin D has been linked to reducing the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in children. A Finnish study monitoring over 12,000 babies born in 1966 showed that those given the correct amount of vitamin D supplement had an 80% decreased risk of developing diabetes. It was also found that children with rickets-which is linked to a vitamin D deficiency-, stood three times the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Children who consume substantial amounts of fatty fish appear less likely to develop diabetes. Vitamin D is also made in response to UVB sun rays and this has been the main source of this hormone-like nutrient. 

Finland has the highest reported incidence of type 1 diabetes and in the north of the country they have only two hours of sunlight a day in the month of December. Researchers say that it is therefore important for that population to receive vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D is an immunosuppressant agent and type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. It usually manifests itself in early childhood but can also occur in early adulthood. The immune system mounts an inflammatory attack on insulin- producing cells in the pancreas. Exactly what causes the destruction of insulin secreting cells is not known. It has long been thought that genetic factors may be responsible and predispose people to develop some form of autoimmunity but genetic factors alone do not appear to cause type 1 diabetes. Environmental factors can trigger an autoimmune response. Certain viruses are thought to be responsible especially the group B coxackievirus. (Drescher K  Tracy SM 2008).

In a paper published recently William B Grant Phd put forward a highly plausible theory to explain why vitamin D might help to prevent type 1 diabetes. (Grant WB 2008). He found that several autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis) are connected to viral infections. These escalate in the winter months when there is less exposure to sun light. Vitamin D promotes the production of bodily compounds that fight viral infection and so lessen the chances of risk of autoimmune diseases.

 In the Lancet, Dr Jill Norris of the University of Colorado states “The potential roll of vitamin D in the parthenogenesis of type 1 diabetes is intriguing and deserves a follow up” 

Mairi Benson a spokesperson for Diabetes UK says that “Studies are interesting but still require further research”

The consensus of opinion at present is that research is at too early a  stage to say whether a lack of vitamin D is an environmental trigger in the development of type 1 diabetes.


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  • Bailey R, Cooper JD, Zeitels L, Smyth DJ, Yang JH, Walker NM, Hyppönen E, Dunger DB, Ramos-Lopez E, Badenhoop K, Nejentsev S, Todd JA. Association of the vitamin D metabolism gene CYP27B1 with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes. 2007 Oct;56(10):2616-21. Epub 2007 Jul 2. 
  • Boraska V, Skrabic V, Zeggini E, Groves CJ, Buljubasic M, Peruzovic M, Zemunik T. Family-based analysis of vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms and type 1 diabetes in the population of South Croatia. J Hum Genet. 2008;53(3):210-4. Epub 2007 Dec 27. PMID: 18161000 [PubMed - in process]9: Related Articles, LinksMimbacas A, Trujillo J, Gascue C, Javiel G, Cardoso H. Prevalence of vitamin D receptor gene polymorphism in a Uruguayan population and its relation to type 1 diabetes mellitus. Genet Mol Res. 2007 Sep 5;6(3):534-42. 
  • Drescher KM, Tracy SM. The CVB and etiology of type 1 diabetes. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2008;323:259-74. 
  • Ginanjar E, Sumariyono, Setiati S, Setiyohadi B. Vitamin D and autoimmune disease. Acta Med Indones. 2007 Jul-Sep;39(3):133-41. Review. 
  • Grant WB. Hypothesis-Ultraviolet-B Irradiance and Vitamin D Reduce the Risk of Viral Infections and thus Their Sequelae, Including Autoimmune Diseases and some Cancers. Photochem Photobiol. 2008 Mar-Apr;84(2):356-65. Epub 2008 Jan 7. 
  • Greer RM, Rogers MA, Bowling FG, Buntain HM, Harris M, Leong GM, Cotterill AM. Australian children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes have low vitamin D levels. Med J Aust. 2007 Jul 2;187(1):59-60. 
  • Jørgensen SP, Bartels LE, Agnholt J, Glerup H, Nielsen SL, Hvas CL, Dahlerup JF. [Vitamin D insufficiency--possible etiologic factor of autoimmune diseases] Ugeskr Laeger. 2007 Oct 22;169(43):3655-60. Review. Danish. 
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  • Ramos-Lopez E, Brück P, Jansen T, Herwig J, Badenhoop K. CYP2R1 (vitamin D 25-hydroxylase) gene is associated with susceptibility to type 1 diabetes and vitamin D levels in Germans. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2007 Nov;23(8):631-6. 
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