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Vitamin D in childhood prevents type 1 diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when cells attack insulin
  • It is increasing by 3-5% annually, with children sufferers being on the rise
  • The reasons behind its increase may be gluten, growing cleanliness or obesity
  • Researchers helped settle the debate of whether vitamin D is linked to diabetes
  • Experts from the University of Colorado analyzed 8,676 children since infancy

Vitamin D in childhood prevents type 1 diabetes, new research suggests.

The sunshine supplement lowers susceptible individuals’ risk by strengthening their immune system, a study found.

Lead author Dr Jill Norris from the University of Colorado, said: ‘For several years there has been controversy among scientists about whether vitamin D lowers the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.’

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that occurs when a person’s immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin. 

The condition is increasing by three-to-five percent annually, particularly among children.

It is on the rise too quickly to be the fault of genetics, with experts therefore blaming everything from gluten, a growing obsession with cleanliness and obesity for the disorder’s surging numbers. 

Vitamin D in childhood prevents type 1 diabetes by strengthening their immune system (stock)


Taking vitamin D supplements in pregnancy strengthens babies’ immune systems, which may lower their risk of developing asthma, research revealed in May.

The unborn babies of expectant mothers who take more than the recommended daily vitamin D dose for pregnant women respond better when exposed to simulated pathogens, a study found.

Previous studies have demonstrated a link between a strong immune system in early life and a reduced risk of asthma.

Researchers believe this may also extend to greater respiratory health overall.

Lead researcher Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz, from King’s College London, said: ‘For the first time, we have shown that higher vitamin D levels in pregnancy can effectively alter the immune response of the newborn baby, which could help to protect the child from developing asthma.’ 

How the research was carried out 

The researchers analyzed 8,676 children from the US and Europe with an elevated type 1 diabetes risk.

High-diabetes risk was determined by the presence of at least one type 1 diabetes antibody precursor on at least two visits.

The children were followed from infancy, with blood samples being collected every three to six months. 

Blood samples were taken to assess antibodies that appear when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin as a precursor to type 1 diabetes, as well as to determine the study’s participant’s vitamin D levels.  

Vitamin D prevents type 1 diabetes’ onset 

Results reveal susceptible children with low vitamin D levels are more likely to produce antibodies that precurse them to type 1 diabetes.

Vitamin D is thought to prevent type 1 diabetes’ onset by regulating the immune system.

It does this by priming certain cells to more effectively fight infection.  

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition that occurs when the body attacks cells that produce insulin. 

Dr Norris said: ‘For several years there has been controversy among scientists about whether vitamin D lowers the risk of developing of islet autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes.’ 

The findings were published in the journal Diabetes. 


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