Monday, March 17, 2008

Preventing Diabetes - Can Vitamin D Protect Against Type 1?

According to the 2005 CDC report, National Diabetes Fact Sheet (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
"About one in every 400 to 600 children and adolescents has type 1 diabetes."
That's a lot of children.

To answer the question I posed in my title, a group of researchers in the UK conducted a meta-analysis (a study of studies) of five observational studies that investigated the effect of vitamin D supplementation on the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.1 Their findings were reported last week in the online edition of the Archives of Disease in Childhood:
"Meta-analysis of data ... showed that the risk of type 1 diabetes was significantly reduced in infants who were supplemented with vitamin D compared to those who were not supplemented."
And ...
"There was also some evidence of a dose-response effect, with those using higher amounts of vitamin D being at lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes."
Unlike the more common type 2 diabetes, type 1 is an auto-immune disease. It develops when the body's immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells. Beta cells produce the hormone insulin which regulates blood glucose. Without insulin, diabetes results.

Both pancreatic beta cells and immune system cells carry receptors for vitamin D. Future research may shed light on how the vitamin operates among these cells.

1 Vitamin D Supplementation in Early Childhood and Risk of Type 1 Diabetes: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

News summary, BBC:
Vitamin D 'Cuts Risk of Diabetes'