Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the body does not
properly produce or utilize insulin, a hormone that helps
us digest the food we eat. People with type 1 diabetes (usually
a build-up of blood sugar that passes out of their body in
their urine, draining the fuel they need.
As a result, diabetics must regulate their bodies’ insulin
levels through careful monitoring and injections of the hormone.
Infants’ diets can affect their likelihood of developing type
1 diabetes later, and studies have suggested that adequate
vitamin D intake may help prevent diabetes.
The purpose of a recent study in The Lancet was to determine
if infant vitamin D deficiency is linked with the onset of
type 1 diabetes. The mothers of over 10,000 children in Finland
completed a questionnaire to determine vitamin D intake.
Infants who received the Finnish minimum recommended daily
intake of 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D were
80% less likely to develop type 1 diabetes over 30 years than
those with lower vitamin intakes. Current guidelines in America
only recommend providing 200 IU of vitamin D to infants daily.
Why do Americans require less vitamin D? Due to the geographic
location of Finland (a far northern latitude), the country’s
inhabitants receive little sunlight. The sun stimulates a
chemical reaction in the body that creates vitamin D, so individuals
in Finland synthesize less vitamin D in their own bodies than
individuals who receive ample sunlight on their skin regularly,
justifying the higher supplementation recommendations.
Be sure your baby receives adequate vitamin D in the first
year, but don’t exceed the guidelines: Excessive levels of
vitamin D are potentially toxic. For most children and adults,
just 15-20 minutes of sunlight on the face or arms two to
three times per week is enough to provide the body with adequate
vitamin D. Foods containing high amounts of vitamin D include
vitamin D-fortified milk, eggs, and fish.
Hypponen E, Laara E, Reunanen A, et al. Intake of vitamin
D and risk of type 1 diabetes: A birth-cohort study. The
Lancet 2001:358, pp. 1500-1503.