Relationship Between Vitamin D During Perinatal Development and Health

Jovana Kaludjerovic, MSc; Reinhold Vieth, PhD


J Midwifery Womens Health. 2010;55(6):550-560. 

In This Article

The Effects of Early Vitamin D Exposure on Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that begins in infancy and results in the destruction of insulin-producing β cells in the pancreas. The initiation of this process is not well understood, but it is estimated that by the time type 1 diabetes is diagnosed, 80% to 90% of β cells have been destroyed.[51] Prevention (rather than treatment strategies) may be most effective in the fight against type 1 diabetes.

There is evidence from epidemiology (Table 1) that vitamin D is a contributing factor in the development of type 1 diabetes. Experimental studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency may be involved in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes,[52,53] possibly because vitamin D is a potent modulator of the immune system and is involved in regulating cell proliferation and differentiation.[54] According to a Finnish study, children who receive a daily dose of 2000 IU of vitamin D starting in the first year of life have a reduced risk of developing type 1 diabetes.[55] Likewise, Norwegian children with rickets who take cod liver oil (rich in vitamin D) in the first year of life have a lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes.[56] The exact mechanism by which vitamin D protects against type 1 diabetes remains unknown, but the identification of VDR in both β cells and immune cells has led to a number of studies of the delineation of these pathways.[57] The scientific evidence thus far suggests that vitamin D supplementation early in life may be important in the protection of β cells' function and prevention of type 1 diabetes.[58,59]


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