Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Vitamin D May Cut Risk of Type 1 Diabetes

Babies, Children Should Be Given Vitamin D Supplements, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 5, 2008 -- There is new evidence that children who get plenty of vitamin D, either from supplements or sun exposure, have a reduced risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Vitamin D supplementation during infancy was associated with a 29% reduction in type 1 diabetes risk in a recently published research analysis.

And a new study examining type 1 diabetes rates in specific populations confirms that rates are lower in sunny equatorial countries and higher in northern latitude countries that get far less sunlight.

UVB and Type 1 Diabetes

Skin exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) through sunlight is a major source of vitamin D, and it has long been recognized that type 1 diabetes rates tend to be greater in higher latitude countries where there is little sunlight, like Finland and Sweden, and lower in countries that are close to the equator.

The observation led to the speculation that vitamin D plays a major role in type 1 diabetes risk, longtime vitamin D researcher Cedric F. Garland, DrPH, tells WebMD.

In an effort to test the theory, Garland and colleagues from the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, examined type 1 diabetes rates worldwide in 51 regions while attempting to control for confounding factors such as the level of medical care.

They confirmed that incidence rates were generally highest in high latitude regions, independent of per capita health expenditures.

"One theory is that high levels of health care in (high latitude) Scandinavian countries may explain the higher diagnosis rates," Garland says. "But Cuba also has very good health care, and we saw very low rates there."

In Finland, for example, about 37 out of 100,000 boys under the age of 14 develop type 1 diabetes. In Cuba, the rate is closer to 2 in 100,000.

The study appears in the June 4 online issue of the journal Diabetologia.

Vitamin D Supplementation

The researchers conclude that their findings are compelling enough to recommend vitamin D supplementation for all babies and young children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics already recommends supplementation for breastfeeding babies and some non-breastfeeding babies. Breast milk contains little vitamin D.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner