Effects on Type I Diabetes

vitD endocrineSome scientists believe that type I diabetes may be an autoimmune condition in which insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells are destroyed. Evidence from animal experiments and human observational studies suggests that vitamin D may help prevent type I diabetes, perhaps by acting as an immune system modulator.

Researchers demonstrated that the pancreatic beta cells of mice contain receptors for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. When they administered this active form of vitamin D to mice early in life, the animals demonstrated a reduced incidence of type I diabetes. However, when 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D was administered later in the life span of mice, diabetes incidence was not affected. Vitamin D appears to limit the expression of certain cytokines, which may prevent the autoimmune attack on pancreatic cells that can lead to diabetes.

Human studies likewise suggest that vitamin D may have a protective effect against type I diabetes. In a large-scale investigation, more than 12,000 pregnant women in Finland enrolled in a trial studying the relationship between vitamin D intake and type I diabetes in infants. After one year, children who supplemented with the suggested study dose of vitamin D (2000 IU per day) had a much lower risk of type I diabetes than children who did not supplement.

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