Childhood Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Diabetes & Multiple Sclerosis
Latest research highlights
Article at a glance:
• All babies & children under 4 are now advised to supplement 400IU vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) daily (unless they’re getting enough from fortified formula milk)
• Higher vitamin D in childhood is linked to a lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes later in life
• Lower vitamin D is linked to a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis
Fast moving vitamin D research
Research into vitamin D is moving fast, with new studies published every single week. A new UK report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) was published in 20161, issuing new guidelines on vitamin D supplementation. All babies and children under 4 are now advised to supplement 400 IU vitamin D as D3 cholecalciferol daily, with just a couple of exceptions. Read more about this here. Here we take a look at some of the latest science underpinning the need to supplement vitamin D daily in babies, right from birth.
Higher vitamin D in childhood linked to lower type 1 diabetes risk
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease and now the most common metabolic disorder in children under the age of 10. It is also increasing by between 3 – 5% every year worldwide. Islet autoimmunity (IA) is a known precursor to the disease, and happens when the immune system attacks insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas.
A large multinational study called the TEDDY study (The Environmental Determinants of Disease in the Young) is currently following 8,676 with elevated diabetes risk. In the latest part of the study, 376 children who developed IA were compared with 1,041 children who did not. In children with a vitamin D gene variant, researchers found that vitamin D levels were lower in those that went on to develop IA compared to those that didn’t. These results show that higher childhood vitamin D levels are significantly associated with a decreased risk of developing IA, and subsequently, type 1 diabetes2.
This study mirrors findings of a similar study carried out in 2013 on 1000 adult US military personnel, which found that those with an increased intake of vitamin D in adolescence had a reduced risk of type 1 diabetes later in life3.
Low vitamin D linked to increased multiple sclerosis risk
Numerous studies have shown a link between low vitamin D and increased risk of multiple sclerosis – a debilitating immune-mediated disease that causes a wide variety of symptoms and disability. Clear evidence exists that low maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy and deficiency in infants significantly heighten the risk of subsequent MS in later life4. In one recent study, vitamin D deficient subjects were found to be 27% more likely to develop MS than those with insufficient vitamin D. Lead author Kassandra Munger commented, “These results directly support vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for MS and strengthen the rationale for broad public health interventions to improve vitamin D levels.”5
Research shows how crucial it is to support optimal vitamin D at any age
Vitamin D is now known to be involved in so many different aspects of health, from strong bones, to immune balance and beyond, and it’s likely that we are only just discovering the tip of the iceberg in terms of its powerful capabilities. More and more research now provides a strong rationale for increasing public awareness around vitamin D, and most importantly, highlights just how crucial it is to support optimal levels at any age.
1. Vitamin D & Health Report. Scientific advisory committee on nutrition (SACN) 2016. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537616/SACN_Vitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf
2. Norriss JM et al. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and risk of islet autoimmunity. Diabetes 2018 Jan; 67(1): 146-154. https://doi.org/10.2337/db17-0802
3. Munger KL, Levin LI et al. Preclinical serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of Type 1 diabetes in a cohort of US Military Personnel. American Journal of Epidemiology: online February 3, 2013; March 1, 2013 print edition.
4. Rhead B, Baarnhielm M. et al. Mendelian randomisation shows a causal effect of low vitamin D on multiple sclerosis risk. Neurol Genet. 2016 Oct; 2(5): e97. Published online 2016 Sep 13. Doi: 10.1212/NXG.0000000000000097
5. Munger KL, Ascherio A et al. 25-hydroxyvitamin D deficiency and risk of MS among women in the Finnish maternity cohort. Neurology. Published online ahead of print doi: 10.1212/WNL. 0000000000004489
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