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Diabetes and vitamin D

TAMPERE, FINLAND. It is well known that vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in animals. There is also increasing evidence that the destruction of beta-cells in the pancreas, the cause of type 1 diabetes, involves a dysfunction of the immune system and that vitamin D acts as an immunosuppressive agent.

Researchers at the Imperial College School of Medicine in London and Tampere University have just released the results of a major study which clearly shows that regular vitamin D supplementation in infancy markedly reduces the risk of developing type 1 diabetes later in life. The study involved over 10,000 Finnish children who were born in 1966. The children were all from northern Finland where the sun shines as little as two hours during the winter months. The researchers found that infants who had received the then recommended daily dosage of vitamin D (2000 IU/day) had an 80 per cent lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes than had children who had received less. They also noted that a low vitamin D intake was associated with an increased risk of rickets. It is interesting that the recommended daily intake of vitamin D in 1964 was 4000-5000 IU/day; this was reduced to only 400 IU/day in 1992.

Dr. Jill Norris of the University of Colorado, in an accompanying editorial, warns that breastfeeding, keeping babies out of the sun, and the increased use of sunscreens for infants and toddlers all conspire to reduce vitamin D intake and thus could increase the risk of type 1 diabetes.
Hypponen, Elina, et al. Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. The Lancet, Vol. 358, November 3, 2001, pp. 1500-03
Norris, Jill M. Can the sunshine vitamin shed light on type 1 diabetes? The Lancet, Vol. 358, November 3, 2001, pp. 1476-78 (commentary)

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