Sun Light Helps Prevent Type 1 Diabetes

Sun light, which is a major source of vitamin D, appears to lower type 1 diabetes risk for children. This discovery was recently made at the University of San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

Type 1 diabetes is a condition that is characterized by deficient insulin production by the pancreas. More than 1.5 million individuals in the United States suffer from the disease, with 15,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. Vitamin D, especially from sun light, has been shown to reduce risk for certain forms of cancer as well, including breast cancer. Vitamin D is primarily available through sunlight, but can be consumed through food and dietary supplements as well.

According to the study, children living near the equator, which has a high abundance of sun light, are far less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than those living at more northerly or southerly points, which have much less sunlight. According to study author Dr. Cedric Garland, “higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced incidence rates of type 1 diabetes worldwide.”

By plotting the location (using latitude, with zero being the equator, negative being the southern hemisphere, and positive being the northern hemisphere) on the horizontal axis, versus type 1 diabetes incidence on the vertical axis, a parabola resulted. The parabolic association is strong and distinctive. 51 regions were accounted for. This association was present regardless of a locations economic and health care status, meaning that even poorer countries near the equator, with less developed health care systems, had a lower type 1 diabetes incidence rate.

The results of this study suggest that a moderate daily vitamin D consumption could be very effective in preventing type 1 diabetes. According to Dr. Garland, “childhood type 1 diabetes may be preventable with a modest intake of vitamin D3 (1000 IU/day) for children, ideally with 5 to 10 minutes of sunlight around noontime, when good weather allows.” He goes on to say that “infants less than a year old should not be given more than 400 IU per day without consulting a doctor. Hats and dark glasses are a good idea to wear when in the sun at any age, and can be used if the child will tolerate them.” While this study is the first to show the connection between lower type 1 diabetes incidence and vitamin D, it’s been shown in addition to this study that moderate vitamin D consumption has very positive health benefits.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Garland, Frank. Edwards, Kim. Diebetologia news release. June 2008.

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