Vitamin D May Reduce Children's Diabetes Risk

June 16, 2008

Lower exposure to ultraviolet B radiation in regions that are more distant from the equator is associated with a higher incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes, supporting the concept that vitamin D may play a role in reducing risk of the disease, according to research published online June 12 in Diabetologia.

MONDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- Lower exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation in regions that are more distant from the equator is associated with a higher incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes, supporting the concept that vitamin D may play a role in reducing risk of the disease, according to research published online June 12 in Diabetologia.

Sharif B. Mohr, and colleagues at the University of California San Diego in La Jolla, Calif., used multiple linear regression analysis to measure the association of UVB irradiance adjusted for cloud cover with incidence rates of type 1 diabetes in patients younger than 14 years. The investigators included 51 world regions in the analysis, which was controlled for per capita health expenditure.

The regression analysis showed that 42 percent of the regional variations in incidence rate were due to UVB radiation and cloud cover, while 25 percent of the incidence variations were based on latitude. Per capita health expenditures did not directly affect the association between UVB radiation and incidence rates, the report indicates. One explanation for the association is that vitamin D metabolites are immunomodulators, while type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, the researchers note.

"The results support previous research that has reported a higher risk of diabetes in children whose mothers had poor vitamin D status, or in the children themselves," the authors conclude. "The results of this study, combined with previous research, may have considerable importance for preventive medicine. No tool has been available to physicians to prevent childhood type 1 diabetes until now."

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