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Vitamin D deficiency linked to type 1 diabetes

December 1, 2012

A new US study suggests that insufficient blood vitamin D3 concentrations may increase the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

In the case-control study, vitamin D serum concentrations were measured in 1000 blood samples from people who later developed type 1 diabetes and from 1000 non-diabetics (1). The study results showed that participants with lower serum 25(OH)D concentrations were at higher risk of developing insulin-requiring diabetes than those with higher concentrations. A 3.5-fold lower risk was associated with a serum 25(OH)D concentration higher than 60 nmol/l. By comparing vitamin D levels, the researchers were able to determine the optimal serum level needed to lower an individual’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes. They estimated that 50 ng/ml of 25(OH) D3 is needed to cut the risk.

The scientists commented that the results do not prove vitamin D3 can prevent type 1 diabetes, but they do show a correlation between a specific dose and lower risk of the disease. Since there are a few conditions that influence vitamin D metabolism, for most people, 4000 IU per day of vitamin D3 are needed to achieve effective levels. Reliance should not be placed on different forms of vitamin D and mega doses should be avoided, as its ability to prevent disease has mostly been linked to doses of less than 10,000 IU/day. Patients should consult their doctor before increasing their vitamin D intake.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that causes high blood sugar levels in the body. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but it can be passed down in families. It is most often diagnosed in children, teens and young adults. Researchers suspect an infection or other event might cause the immune system to attack beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin, a hormone like vitamin D. There is also some evidence that insufficient vitamin D levels can lead to metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

References

  1. Gorham E. D. et al. Lower prediagnostic serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration is associated with higher risk of insulin-requiring diabetes: a nested case–control study. Diabetologia. 2012; 55(12): 3224–3227.