According to a study published last week in the Lancet, infants who receive the recommended daily dose of vitamin D may have a lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Babies who received at least 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily were nearly 80% less likely to develop type 1 diabetes over the next three decades compared with infants who had lower intakes of the vitamin.
It is not clear how vitamin D may lower the risk of type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the body's own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
However, vitamin D has been shown to suppress certain cells of the immune system that may play a role in the development of the disorder.
The Finnish researchers think it is likely that vitamin D would be needed in enabling the optimal function of the immune system and in preventing too aggressive attacks against the body's own tissues.
Current guidelines recommend that infants receive 7.5 to 10 micrograms (mcg), or about 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily. Sources of vitamin D include fatty salt-water fish, fortified cows' milk, eggs and infant formulas.
These study findings results may not apply to children in countries that receive plenty of natural sunlight. Ultraviolet light triggers a reaction in the skin that helps the body synthesize its own vitamin D.
Children who receive infant formula instead of breast milk may also be less likely suffer from a deficiency of vitamin D.
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