Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Increased Risk of Type 1 Diabetes

Results of a recent study of military service members show that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of developing Type 1 diabetes (juvenile onset diabetes). The spokesman for the study, Cedric Garland PhD,  explained that healthy people with vitamin D levels over 60 nmol/L

developed type 1 diabetes 3.5 times less frequently than those with lower vitamin D levels.

About a year ago I reviewed evidence showing that low vitamin D levels are also linked to Metabolic Syndrome a condition characterized by obesity, high triglycerides in the blood, high blood pressure and fasting blood sugar elevation. Metabolic Syndrome is often the first step toward the development of Type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes).

Most guidelines for vitamin D supplementation state that the desirable range for vitamin D level is 30 or more. The finding that a vitamin D of 60 nmol/L or more may protect against development of juvenile diabetes, could impact  these recommendations. Dr. Garland went on to say that in order to achieve vitamin D levels over 60 nmol/L  supplementation with 4000 units of vitamin D per day is frequently needed. The amount of vitamin D supplementation recommended by the influential Institute of Medicine (IOM) is 600 to 800 IU daily, which is unlikely to result in levels adequate to protect against type 1 diabetes.

What could explain the link between low vitamin D and development of Type 1 diabetes? Type 1 diabetes is thought to be due to a defect in the body’s defense system (the immune system) allowing it to attack the pancreas, the insulin making organ. Once the pancreas can no longer make insulin Type 1 diabetes results with blood sugar rising dramatically. Only injections of insulin will restore the sugar levels to normal.

Vitamin D is thought to be important for the proper maintenance of the immune system.  Without adequate vitamin D levels the immune system can malfunction increasing the risk of diseases like Type 1 diabetes as well as several types of cancer such as breast, colon and prostate.

As mentioned above, many influential national agencies recommend supplementation with 600 to 800 units daily of vitamin D, although experts like Dr. Garland point out this may not be enough to protect against developing type 1 diabetes. Discuss this important preventative health issue with your health care provider for more information or log on to metabolism.com for periodic updates.

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