Study links vitamin D, type 1 diabetes

June 5, 2008,

Sun exposure and vitamin D levels may play a strong role in risk of type 1 diabetes in children, according to new findings by researchers at the Moores Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. This association comes on the heels of similar research findings by this same group regarding vitamin D levels and several major cancers.

In this new study, the researchers found that populations living at or near the equator, where there is abundant sunshine (and ultraviolet B irradiance) have low incidence rates of type 1 diabetes. Conversely, populations at higher latitudes, where available sunlight is scarcer, have higher incidence rates. These findings add new support to the concept of a role of vitamin D in reducing risk of this disease.

Ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure triggers photosynthesis of vitamin D3 in the skin. This form of vitamin D also is available through diet and supplements.

"This is the first study, to our knowledge, to show that higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced incidence rates of type 1 diabetes worldwide," said Cedric F. Garland, Dr. P.H., professor of Family and Preventive Medicine in the UCSD School of Medicine, and member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.

The study is published June 5 in the online version of the scientific journal Diabetologia.

Type 1 diabetes is the second most common chronic disease in children, second only to asthma. Every day, 1.5 million Americans deal with type 1 diabetes and its complications. About 15,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, where this disease is the main cause of blindness in young and middle-aged adults and is among the top reasons for kidney failure and transplants in youth and midlife.

"This research suggests that childhood type 1 diabetes may be preventable with a modest intake of vitamin D3 (1000 IU/day) for children, ideally with 5 to 10 minutes of sunlight around noontime, when good weather allows," said Garland. "Infants less than a year old should not be given more than 400 IU per day without consulting a doctor. Hats and dark glasses are a good idea to wear when in the sun at any age, and can be used if the child will tolerate them."

The association of UVB irradiance to incidence of type 1 diabetes remained strong even after the researchers accounted for per capita healthcare expenditure. This was an important consideration because regions located near the equator tend to have lower per capita healthcare expenditures, which could result in under-reporting of type 1 diabetes.

The researchers created a graph with a vertical axis for diabetes incidence rates, and a horizontal axis for latitude. The latitudes range from -60 for the southern hemisphere, to zero for the equator, to +70 for the northern hemisphere. They then plotted incidence rates for 51 regions according to latitude. The resulting chart was a parabolic curve that looks like a smile.

In the paper the researchers call for public health action to address widespread vitamin D inadequacy in U.S. children.

"This study presents strong epidemiological evidence to suggest that we may be able to prevent new cases of type 1 diabetes," said Garland. "By preventing this disease, we would prevent its many devastating consequences."

Source: University of California - San Diego

Explore further: Whole grains deliver on health benefits

Related Stories

Whole grains deliver on health benefits

March 16, 2018
All hail the whole grain!

Deadliest type of stroke seeing surge of new research

March 9, 2018
Patricia Nelson was leaving a restaurant after dinner last June with friends when she started hearing wind blowing in her ear before she'd even stepped outside. "I just didn't feel right," says Nelson, a stroke rehabilitation ...

Here's to a healthy pregnancy

February 15, 2018
(HealthDay)—Take good prenatal care of yourself and not only will you have a healthier baby, you'll also lower his or her risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease later in life.

Fish oil and probiotic supplements in pregnancy may reduce risk of childhood allergies

February 28, 2018
In one of the largest ever research reports of how a pregnant woman's diet affects her baby's allergy and eczema risk, scientists from Imperial College London assessed over 400 studies involving 1.5 million people.

Pregnant women deficient in vitamin D may give birth to obese children

February 13, 2018
Vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women could preprogram babies to grow into obese children and adults, according to a Keck School of Medicine of USC-led study.

Chemist designs diabetic treatment minus harmful side effects

February 9, 2018
A chemist in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) has figured out how to control glucose levels in the bloodstream without the usual side effects of nausea, vomiting or malaise.

Recommended for you

A multimodal intervention to reduce one of the most common healthcare-acquired infections

March 16, 2018
Surgical site infections are the most frequent health care-associated infections in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this type of infection can affect up to one-third of surgical patients ...

New imaging approach offers unprecedented views of staph infection

March 14, 2018
Eric Skaar, PhD, MPH, marvels at the images on his computer screen—3-D molecular-level views of infection in a mouse. "I'm pretty convinced that these are the most advanced images in infection biology," said Skaar, Ernest ...

Parasitic worms need their intestinal microflora too

March 14, 2018
Scientists at The University of Manchester have cast new light on a little understood group of worm infections, which collectively afflicts 1 in 4 people, mainly children—in the developing the world.

Compound scores key win in battle against antibiotic resistance

March 14, 2018
Researchers at Oregon State University have made a key advance in the fight against drug resistance, crafting a compound that genetically neutralizes a widespread bacterial pathogen's ability to thwart antibiotics.

Helicobacter creates immune system blind spot

March 13, 2018
The gastric bacterium H. pylori colonizes the stomachs of around half the human population and can lead to the development of gastric cancer. It is usually acquired in childhood and persists life-long, despite a strong inflammatory ...

Taking the jab (and the chill) out of vaccination

March 13, 2018
Scientists in Cairns (Australia) and Cardiff (Wales) have taken an important first step towards solving two problems that hinder access to vaccines: they need to be kept cool, and no one likes needles.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2008
Hooray for more info we already knew because of the work of Weston A. Price 70 years ago! Don't forget to take extra Retinol.
4 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2008
The diabetes-latitude correlation sounds solid, but what about the link between latitude and vitamin D? Latitude is unquestionably a primary factor in vitamin D levels, but it isn't the only one. Diet, clothing, cloud cover, weather, culture, wealth, and other factors that influence how much time people spend outdoors all contribute.

Did they actually measure vitamin D levels? If not, that might be something to investigate.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.