Maternal Vitamin D Level Linked To Child’s Future Risk Of Diabetes

The children of mothers with a low vitamin D status during pregnancy could be more than twice as likely to develop type-1 diabetes according to the results of a study published in the journal Diabetes earlier this month. The study, led by Ingvild M. Sørensen of the Department of Pediatrics, Oslo University Hospital Ullevål in Norway, involved 109 women whose children subsequently developed type-1 diabetes before the age of 15, and 218 control women whose children did not develop diabetes.

The researchers measured the 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels of the women from blood samples taken late in their pregnancy. Vitamin D levels were more than 10% lower on average in the women whose children became diabetic compared to the control group (65.8 vs 73.1 nmol/L). Furthermore, when the women were divided into quartiles, those in the lowest quartile for 25-hydroxy vitamin D had 2.39 times higher odds of having a child with type-1 diabetes compared to the highest quartile.

This isn’t the first study to suggest a link between a mother’s vitamin D status and diabetes risk. A Norwegian study, published in the journal Diabetologia in 2000, found that mothers who took cod liver oil supplements during pregnancy had offspring with 70% lower odds of developing type-1 diabetes compared to the children of mothers who did not take cod liver oil supplements. The authors of the study concluded that the lower rates of diabetes observed were likely due to either the high levels of vitamin D, or the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in the supplements.

Type-1 diabetes makes up a relatively small proportion of total diabetes cases however rates have been steadily increasing by around 3% per year in recent decades. In contrast to type-2 diabetes, type-1 diabetes typically occurs in children and younger adults. Countries with a high incidence of type-1 diabetes include Norway, Finland, the UK, Canada, and New Zealand.

Although moderate daily sun exposure is the easiest way to maintain high vitamin D levels, some foods are also rich in vitamin D including fish oil, dairy products, fortified cereals, eggs, and some varieties of mushrooms.