A new study published in the journal Diabetes found that children with low blood levels of vitamin D were more likely to experience islet autoimmunity, compared with those who had higher levels of the vitamin. Lead study author Jill Norris, Ph.D., of the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz in Aurora, CO, and colleagues have tried to show that higher levels of vitamin D may help to prevent islet autoimmunity.
Islet autoimmunity is a process wherein the immune system mistakingly attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancrease, causing type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. It’s sometimes called “juvenile” diabetes, because type 1 diabetes usually develops in children and teenagers, though it can develop at any age.
|The researchers found that among children who possessed a variant in the vitamin D receptor gene, higher vitamin D levels during infancy and childhood were associated with a reduced risk of developing islet autoimmunity.|
What is Islet autoimmunity?
With type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks part of its own pancreas. Scientists say that the immune system mistakenly sees the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as foreign, and destroys them. This attack is known as “autoimmune” disease.
These cells – called “islets” (pronounced EYE-lets) – are the ones that sense glucose in the blood and, in response, produce the necessary amount of insulin to normalize blood sugars.
Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter — and allow you to use the glucose for energy.
Without insulin, there is no “key.” So, the sugar stays — and builds up– in the blood. The result: the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose.
If left untreated, the high level of “blood sugar” can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, and the heart, and can also lead to coma and death.
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?
The symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are all based on the fact that there is high blood sugar. The symptoms include:
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Lethargy, fatigue and drowsiness
- Blurred vision
- Sudden weight loss
- Increased appetite, hunger
When the blood sugar is stabilised by treatment, these symptoms go away.
Idle Levels of Vitamin D
Vitamin D can be found in oily fish and fortified milk, but don’t rely on food sources because the potency is miniscule compared to the dose you need.
Young people spending hours in the summer sun have 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels greater than 60 ng/mL. Ideal ranges for 25-hydroxyvitamin D are between 50-80 ng/mL.
The cause and effect between higher vitamin D levels and reduced risk of islet autoimmunity yet remains to be uncovered!
Type 1 diabetes is not curable, but with good management and support from your healthcare team, it can be controlled one can live normal and healthy life.