Vitamin D for babies may prevent type 1 diabetes

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new analysis of current research provides “the strongest evidence to date” that giving small children supplemental vitamin D will help prevent them from developing type 1 diabetes later on, according to the review’s co-author.

“This is just another reason why current recommendations regarding vitamin D supplementation should be rigorously adhered to,” Dr. Christos S. Zipitis told Reuters Health.

Vitamin D is produced in the skin with sun exposure. Deficiency in the nutrient can lead to a host of health problems, Zipitis said. Because breast milk typically contains little vitamin D, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplements for nursing infants and UK public health authorities say that all children should receive the supplements for at least the first two years of life.

There are a number of clues suggesting a link between low vitamin D levels and type 1 diabetes, Zipitis of Stockport National Health Service Foundation Trust and Dr. A. K. Akobeng of Booth Hall Children’s Hospital in Manchester, UK, note in their report in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The investigators reviewed all published research on vitamin D supplementation and diabetes risk. Overall, they found, infants who were supplemented with Vitamin D were 29 percent less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than children who had not received supplements.

Proper clinical trials are required to determine the optimal dose and formulation of vitamin D, as well as when and for how long children should be given the supplements, Zipitis and Akobeng conclude.

In the meantime, Zipitis said, “I would advise parents to encourage their pediatricians to prescribe vitamin D supplements for their infants. However, parents can also obtain these over the counter and provided they are used as per manufacturer instructions they should be extremely safe to use.”

SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood, June 2008.