Type 1 diabetes is a condition characterised by raised levels of sugar in the bloodstream, and it’s underlying cause is a lack of insulin (usually secreted by the pancreas). The condition is ‘auto-immune’ in nature, which means that it is caused by the body’s immune system reacting to and damaging it’s own tissues (in this case the so-called ‘beta cells’ normally responsible for making insulin. Vitamin D deficiency has been noted to have links with an enhanced risk of autoimmune disease, which at least opens up some possibility that vitamin D deficiency might be a risk factor for type 1 diabetes.
In a recent study , vitamin D levels were checked in children aged 6-12 with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. Average vitamin D levels were found to be about 20.02 ng/mL (50 mmol/L). In healthy ‘controls’, vitamin D levels were found to be an average of about 26 ng/mL (65 mmol/L). The results were statistically significant, and caused the authors to conclude that ‘vitamin D levels are low at the onset of T1D, and they strongly support the need for further clinical studies to prospectively evaluate the effect of vitamin D supplementation on T1D [type 1 diabetes] rates in this patient population’.
Actually, this is not the first evidence linking low levels of vitamin D with heightened type 1 diabetes risk. Back in 2008, I reported on a meta-analysis in which 5 relevant studies were lumped together which showed the same thing. For more on this study, and a bit more about how vitamin D deficiency might enhance type 1 diabetes risk, see here.
1. Borkar VV, et al. Low levels of vitamin D in North Indian children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. Pediatric Diabetes 9th November 2009 [Epub ahead of print]