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Vitamin D May Cut Child Diabetes Risk

29% Less Type 1 Diabetes in Infants Getting Vitamin D
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March 12, 2008 -- Infants who get vitamin D supplements have a lower risk of getting type 1 diabetes, a small study suggests.

The study was not a clinical trial. Researchers Christos S. Zipitis, MBChB, of NHS Foundation Trust, and Anthony K. Akobeng, MBChB, combined data from five studies that looked for differences between kids who got type 1 diabetes and kids who did not.

The combined data suggest that giving infants vitamin D supplements cuts their risk of type 1 diabetes by 29%.

It's not clear how vitamin D might fight diabetes. However, Zipitis and Akobeng note that insulin-making beta cells in the pancreas are sensitive to vitamin D.

Moreover, the body makes vitamin D in response to sunlight on the skin. The researchers note that infants in wintry Finland are 400 times more likely than a child in sunny Venezuela to have childhood diabetes.

The researchers note that randomized clinical trials will be needed to determine whether vitamin D truly helps prevent diabetes.

Pediatricians already recommend vitamin D supplements for children to prevent rickets. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants, including those who are exclusively breastfed, have a minimum intake of 200 IU of vitamin D per day during the first two months of life. After that, daily intake of 200 IU of vitamin D per day is recommended throughout childhood and adolescence.

Zipitis and Akobeng report their findings in the online edition of Archives of Diseases in Childhood.

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