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Could vitamin D3 help prevent type 1 diabetes?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
First study links dose related response to vitamin D3 and type 1 diabetes.

University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers have found a direct correlation between low levels of serum vitamin D3 and onset of type 1 diabetes.

The finding, according to the study authors, suggests vitamin D3 could help prevent the autoimmune disorder that is most often diagnosed in children, teens and young adults.

Cedric Garland, DrPH, FACE, professor in UCSD's Department of Family and Preventive Medicine explains in a press release that the study is the first to shows a direct correlation between risk of type 1 diabetes and dose of the vitamin.

According to Garland, the level of 25(OH)D, which is vitamin D3 or 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D needed to prevent half the cases of type 1 diabetes is 50 ng/ml, which the current study also found is safe.

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.

Researchers suspect an infection or other event might cause the immune system to attack beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin.

Insulin, like vitamin D3, is a hormone and is the active form in the body. The vitamin has received significant attention from researchers for its role in preventing cancer and heart disease, but so far studies are mixed.

There is also some evidence that insufficient vitamin D can lead to metabolic syndrome that is a risk for type 2 diabetes.

Another recent study showed higher levels of serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D might protect from bladder cancer.

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How the study was done

Researchers analyzed millions of blood samples that were frozen by the Department of Defense Serum Registry for disease surveillance ,thawed and tested.

Next the scientists matched results of vitamin D3 levels to people who later developed type 1 diabetes and 1000 healthy controls whose blood was drawn around the same time, but did not develop the disease.

When Garland and his team compared vitamin D – 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels they were able to ascertain 50 ng/ml could help prevent half of the cases of type 1 diabetes. The results are published in the December issue of Diabetologia, a publication of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).

How much vitamin D would you need?

Garland says it would take 4,000 IU per day of vitamin D3 to be effective. He also cautions that you speak with your health care provider for vitamin D testing before you add extra vitamin D3.

"This beneficial effect is present at these intakes only for vitamin D3," cautioned Garland. "Reliance should not be placed on different forms of vitamin D and mega doses should be avoided, as most of the benefits for prevention of disease are for doses less than 10,000 IU/day."

The finding suggests a link between vitamin D3 and type 1 diabetes. The study took place over 6 years and include analysis of blood levels of nearly 2,000 individuals. The results don’t prove vitamin D3 can prevent type 1 diabetes, but it does show a correlation between a specific dose and lower risk of the disease.

November 15, 2012

Type 1 diabetes

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