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Vitamin D Supplements Can Help To Prevent Type 1 Diabetes' by 30%

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2008

Supplements of vitamin D can help young children to ward off diabetes in later life, researchers report. The chance of developing Type 1 diabetes fell by almost a third in those who received extra doses of the vitamin. 

A review of 5 studies with more than 6,000 cases found that children given additional vitamin D were around 30 per cent less likely to develop Type 1 diabetes than those not given it. The higher and more regular the dose of the vitamin, the less likelihood there was of developing the disease.

Dr Victoria King, research manager of the charity, Diabetes UK, said: "This study suggests that taking vitamin D in childhood has the potential to prevent the development of Type 1 diabetes.

"However, much more research, in particular controlled trials which compares the results when one group of people are given vitamin D supplements and one group is not, are needed before we can confirm a concrete association between vitamin D and Type 1 diabetes."

The findings, published last week, in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, also suggest that the younger children are when they receive the supplement the more protection they are offered against later development of diabetes.
According to the research, vitamin D facilitates in keeping the immune system healthy. Previous research has also found that type 1 diabetes is more common in places where exposure to sunlight is lower.

The higher and the more regular the dose, the lower was the likelihood of developing the disease, it found. However, it was unclear from the studies how old many of the children were or what the exact dose was. The authors said levels of vitamin D and sunlight, from which the body manufactures the vitamin, have been implicated in the risks of developing other autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers say that one explanation is that vitamin D, mainly received through diet and sunlight, is partly absorbed in the body through pancreatic and immune cells.

Dr Christos Zipitis, from St Mary's Hospital for Women and Children in Manchester, who led the study, said it was important because it is estimated that, "by 2010 the incidence of Type 1 diabetes will be 40 per cent higher than it was a decade earlier".

And there is a striking difference in the incidence of type 1 diabetes according to latitude and levels of sunlight exposure, with a child in Finland 400 times more likely to develop the disease than a child in Venezuela, say the authors. Further evidence of vitamin D’s role comes from the fact that pancreatic beta cells and immune cells carry receptors or docking bays for the active forms of the vitamin.  Pediatricians already recommend vitamin D supplements for children to prevent rickets. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants, including those who are exclusively breastfed, have a minimum intake of 200 IU of vitamin D per day during the first two months of life. After that, daily intake of 200 IU of vitamin D per day is recommended throughout childhood and adolescence.

Source: Diabetes In Control: Zipitis, C.S. and Akobeng, A.K. Archives of Diseases in Childhood, online edition, 2008.

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