Infants who do not receive enough Vitamin D are more likely to develop type-1 diabetes in later life according to researchers who analyzed the findings of five previous studies.
The study, which appears in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, found that across the five studies, vitamin D supplementation resulted in a 30 percent reduction in the probability of developing type-1 diabetes later in life.
The findings are backed up by previous observations that those living in sunnier climates or close to the equator have lower levels of type 1 diabetes because strong sunlight stimulates production of vitamin D in the body.
The largest single study of vitamin D’s role in preventing type 1 diabetes came from a Finnish study that followed 10,366 children for 31 years from 1966 to 1997. Vitamin D supplementation during the first year of life was recorded along with the presence of suspected rickets. At the end of the study, 81 of the participants had developed type-1 diabetes.
The researchers found that those children who had received the recommended daily intake of vitamin D (2000 IU) during their first year of life had a 78% reduced probability of developing type-1 diabetes compared to the children who did not receive the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. Furthermore, regular vitamin D supplementation was associated with an 88% reduction in type-1 diabetes compared to those infants who received no vitamin D supplementation during their first year of life.
216 of the children were suspected to have rickets during their first year of life and those children were three times more likely to develop type-1 diabetes than those who did not have rickets. Rickets is a childhood disease that causes the bones to soften and eventually deform and fracture. The primary cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D and although rare in the United States, rickets is still a significant health problem in many third world countries.
Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and vitamin D is thought to be an immunosuppresant meaning it reduces immune system activity. It is thought that vitamin D may help prevent an overactive immune system from destroying its own insulin producing beta cells.
The study comes on the back of a similar study that found vitamin D deficiency may also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Type-1 diabetes makes up approximately 5% to 10% of all diabetes cases in the United States. It is estimated that as many as 65,000 children worldwide under the age of 15 develop type-1 diabetes each year.
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