Taking vitamin D supplements in early childhood may ward off the development of type 1 diabetes in later life, according to a new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the body's own immune system. The disease is most common among Europeans and affects about 2 million Europeans and North Americans worldwide.

In the study, researchers conducted a systematic review of the current research on vitamin D and type 1 diabetes. Data from five studies on vitamin D supplementation in children was pooled and re-analyzed.

The results showed that infants given additional vitamin D were about 30 percent less likely to develop type 1 diabetes compared with those who were not given the supplement.

The higher and the more regular the dose, the lower the likelihood of developing Type 1 disease.

Vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin" is made by the skin upon exposure to the UV rays of the sun. Recent studies have linked this vitamin to lowered risk various autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The insulin-producing cells in the pancreas have receptors for vitamin D, which may provide a clue as to why the vitamin affects the normal functioning of these cells.

It's not clear how vitamin D might fight diabetes. However, in Canada, pediatricians recommend giving exclusively breastfed infants 400 IU of vitamin D every day, until the child starts eating solids and drinking milk (fluid milk is fortified with vitamin D).

Vitamin D is found naturally in foods such as egg yolks and fatty fish; it`s also added to milk and a few brands of yogurt. Health Canada recommends 200-600 IU of vitamin D per day depending on age. In June 2007, the Canadian Cancer Society advised adults living in Canada to consider taking 1000 IU of supplemental vitamin D per day in the fall and winter to help reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Consider consulting a registered dietitian to evaluate your diet and determine the need for vitamin supplements.


All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.