Giving a baby vitamin D supplements in its first year of life significantly reduces the child’s chance of developing type 1 diabetes, according to a Finnish study. Researchers studied the effects of vitamin D supplementation on 10,366 children and published the results in the November 3, 2001, issue of The Lancet.
Researchers collected data for one year from children born in 1966 in two regions of northern Finland. They recorded the frequency of vitamin D supplementation and the appearance of rickets, a condition caused by vitamin D deficiency. A follow-up was conducted to determine whether any of the children had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes by the end of 1997.
The risk of developing diabetes was reduced by more than 80 percent for children who received vitamin D supplements compared to those not receiving the vitamin. Also, the dose of vitamin D given to the children had an effect on diabetes risk. Children who regularly took the recommended dose (2000 IU daily) of vitamin D had a further 78 percent reduction in the risk of type 1 diabetes, compared to those receiving vitamin D regularly but in lower doses.
Consistent with the above results, if a child had a suspected case of rickets during the first year of life, the child’s later risk of type 1 diabetes was increased threefold.
“Vitamin D supplementation is associated with reduced risk of type 1 diabetes,” the researchers conclude, explaining that vitamin D acts as an immunosuppressive agent. (Type 1 diabetes is believed to be an autoimmune disease.) They further state that “ensuring adequate vitamin D supplementation for infants could help to reverse the increasing trend in the incidence of type 1 diabetes.”
Researchers recommend consulting a healthcare professional about proper dosage.