Five separate studies have uncovered a connection between early childhood Vitamin D consumption and the diminished risk of developing Type 1 diabetes later in life. According to each study, the higher the dose of Vitamin D, the lower the risk of developing the disease.
Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is a disease beginning at infancy in which insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are permanently destroyed. It is often fatal unless treated with insulin injections. It is a rapidly growing disease worldwide in which “Its incidence is rising at roughly 3% a year, and it is estimated that new cases will have risen 40% between 2000 and 2010.” Type 1 diabetes is considered to be a higher risk for people of European descent.
The study results showed that on average, children given Vitamin D supplements were 30% less likely to develop Type 1 diabetes than those not taking the supplements.
Further evidence that supports the connection between Vitamin D consumption and the lower occurrence of Type 1 diabetes comes from a natural source, sunlight. Exposure to sunlight naturally produces Vitamin D in the body, and the study notes that “a child in Finland 400 times more likely to develop the disease than a child in Venezuela,” with Finland characteristically low on sunlight, and Venezuela very sunny.
It is also known that pancreatic beta-cells, which are responsible for producing insulin, have active receptors for Vitamin D, further showing the connection between Vitamin D and Type 1 diabetes prevention.
A standard dosage, or definitive understanding of the connection, is not present, but the existence of the connection between Vitamin D and lower Type 1 diabetes occurrence seems clearly there. With more conclusive evidence on the subject, it might soon become standard practice for children at high hereditary risk for Type 1 diabetes (people with family history and of European descent) to start taking Vitamin D supplements at infancy.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Dickinson, Emma. BMJ Press Release. March 2008.