- Vitamin D during infancy reduces the risk of islet autoimmunity among children at increased genetic risk for type 1 diabetes.
- Islet autoimmunity is when the immune system attacks the islet cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which causes type 1 diabetes.
- Vitamin D represents a candidate protective factor for type 1 diabetes as it regulates the immune system and autoimmunity.
Adequate vitamin D and the subsequent levels in plasma during infancy and childhood is associated with a reduced risk of type 1 diabetes, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes
The study's lead author, Jill Norris, MPH, PhD, of the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz, and her co-authors examined the association between vitamin D levels in the blood and islet autoimmunity.
‘High levels of plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D was associated with a reduced risk of islet autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes.’
Islet autoimmunity, detected by antibodies that appear when the immune system attacks the islet cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, is a precursor to type 1 diabetes.
"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," said Dr. Norris.
Vitamin D and Islet Autoimmunity
Serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, has emerged as a predictor of key clinical outcomes including bone health, glucose metabolism, cardiovascular health, immune health and survival.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease that is increasing by 3-5 percent annually worldwide. The disease is now the most common metabolic disorder in children under age 10. In younger children, the number of new cases is particularly high. And the risks seem to be greater at higher latitudes, further north from the equator.
Vitamin D represents a candidate protective factor for type 1 diabetes as it regulates the immune system and autoimmunity. Moreover, vitamin D status varies by latitude. But associations between vitamin D levels and islet autoimmunity have been inconsistent.
The findings from, a large, multi-national study funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases may give a clear picture about the link between diabetes in children and Vitamin D levels.
Children from six clinical centers: three in the U.S. (Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes at CU Anschutz, the Pacific Northwest Research Institute in Seattle, and Augusta University in Georgia) and three in Europe (Universities of Turku, Oulu, and Tampere in Finland, Helmholtz Zentrum München in Germany, and Lund University in Sweden) were recruited for the study.
The aim of the study is to search for triggers and protective factors for type 1 diabetes in 8,676 children with elevated type 1 diabetes risk.
The children were followed with blood samples drawn every three to six months from infancy, to determine the presence of islet autoimmunity, as well as levels of vitamin D.
The authors compared 376 children who developed islet autoimmunity with 1,041 children who did not. The authors found that in children with a genetic variant in the vitamin D receptor gene, vitamin D levels in infancy and childhood were lower in those that went on to develop islet autoimmunity compared with those that did not develop autoimmunity.
This study is the first to show that higher childhood vitamin D levels are significantly associated with a decreased risk of IA.
"Since this association does not prove cause-and-effect, we look to future prospective studies to confirm whether a vitamin D intervention can help prevent type 1 diabetes," Dr. Norris said.
Functions of Vitamin D in The Body
- Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for normal bone growth.
- It helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphate from the intestines, thereby maintaining their normal levels in the blood.
- It also helps to prevent osteoporosis in older individuals.
- Vitamin D is also involved in cell growth
- It helps regulate neuromuscular and immune function
- Vitamin D may help to prevent some cancers like breast, prostate and colon cancer.
Jill M. Norris, Hye-Seung Lee, Brittni Frederiksen, Iris Erlund, Ulla Uusitalo, Jimin Yang, Åke Lernmark,Olli Simell, Jorma Toppari, Marian Rewers, Anette-G. Ziegler, Jin-Xiong She, Suna Onengut-Gumuscu,Wei-Min Chen, Stephen S. Rich, Jouko Sundvall, Beena Akolkar, Jeffrey Krischer, Suvi M. Virtanen and William Hagopian. 'Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and risk of islet autoimmunity'. Diabetes (2017). https://doi.org/10.2337/db17-0802.