Vitamin D supplements in early childhood may ward off
the development of type 1 diabetes in later life, reveals
a research review published ahead of print in the Archives
of Disease in Childhood.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, in which insulin
producing beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed by
the body's own immune system, starting in early infancy.
The disease is most common among people of European descent,
with around 2 million Europeans and North Americans affected.
Its incidence is rising at roughly 3% a year, and it
is estimated that new cases will have risen 40% between
2000 and 2010.
A trawl of published evidence on vitamin D supplementation
in children produced five suitable studies, the pooled
data from which were re-analysed.
The results showed that children given additional vitamin
D were around 30% less likely to develop type 1 diabetes
compared with those not given the supplement.
And the higher and the more regular the dose, the lower
was the likelihood of developing the disease, the evidence
Levels of vitamin D, and sunlight, from which the body
manufactures the vitamin, have been implicated in the
risks of developing various autoimmune disorders, including
multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
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
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.