Vitamin D Supplements May Protect Against Diabetes in Kids
WebMD News Archive
Nov. 1, 2001 -- In the past, research has pointed to a link
between vitamin D and diabetes in kids. Now a new study suggests that giving
vitamin D supplements to children may help protect them from high blood
Researchers followed 12,000 Finnish children from birth. They
found youngsters given vitamin D supplements during the first year of life were
less likely to develop type 1 diabetes, a form of the disease that, almost
always, is seen first in children or young adults. It requires multiple
injections everyday with insulin, the hormone that keeps blood sugar from
rising too high.
Most of us get enough vitamin D from our diet and from being in
the sun, which helps the body make it. Finland is the perfect place to study
the effects of vitamin D on the body, as people there may not be getting the
sunlight required to make enough of the nutrient. Supplementation is often
recommended because Northern Finland may get as little as two hours of sun each
day during the winter.
Researchers say the findings could help explain the very
complex and little-understood causes of the disease, once known as
juvenile-onset diabetes. Genes, the immune system, and environmental factors
are all believed to be involved, but their exact roles are not known.
"Only a very small number of those with a genetic
susceptibility to type 1 diabetes go on to develop the disease," lead
researcher Elina Hypponen, PhD, of London's Institute of Child Health, tells
WebMD. "Animal studies and several other studies suggest that inadequate
vitamin D may be linked to diabetes risk, and that is why we did this
Hypponen and colleagues collected information on vitamin D
supplementation from approximately 12,000 children in northern Finland born in
1966. Children who had the recommended supplements of vitamin D (usually in the
form of cod-liver oil) were found to have an 80% reduction in diabetes risk,
compared to those receiving less than the recommended dose. The findings were
reported Nov. 5 in the journal The Lancet.