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Author: Amy Campbell
Excerpt from: Diabetes Self-Management.com

Diabetes

Some research indicates that infants and children given vitamin D supplements are less likely to develop Type 1 diabetes. In one recent study published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, children who were given vitamin D were 30% less likely to develop Type 1 diabetes than those not taking a supplement.

It’s already well-known in diabetes circles that children living in areas of the world without much sunlight, such as Finland, have higher rates of Type 1 diabetes than those in sunnier parts of the world. In fact, infants in Finland are 400 times more likely to develop diabetes than infants in Venezuela. Infants should receive 200 IU of vitamin D daily.

Vitamin D may also play a role in preventing Type 2 diabetes. One study, in the journal Diabetes Care, looked at data from 4,000 men and women. Vitamin D levels were significantly lower in the 187 people who developed Type 2 diabetes than in those who didn’t get diabetes. And those with the highest blood levels of vitamin D were 40% less likely to get diabetes.

Also, data from the Nurses’ Health Study found that women who took a combination of 1,200 mg of calcium and more than 800 IU of vitamin D daily had a 33% lower chance of getting Type 2 diabetes than women taking smaller amounts of these nutrients. The thinking is that both calcium and vitamin D play a role in glucose metabolism in the body.

What Else Does Vitamin D Do?

Miracles aside for a moment, one of vitamin D’s main roles in the body is to help maintain bone health. Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption in the intestines and to maintain the balance of calcium and phosphate in the body for bone mineralization.

We also need vitamin D for normal bone growth. You’ve probably heard of rickets, a bone disease that occurs in children due to a deficiency of this vitamin. Insufficient vitamin D leads to softening and weakening of bones. Rickets can manifest itself in the form of bow legs or a curving of the spine.

Osteomalacia is bone-softening that occurs in adults. Bone pain and muscle weakness are the main symptoms of this disease. Osteomalacia isn’t the same as osteoporosis, however. Osteomalacia results from a deficiency of vitamin D, which, in turn, affects the building of bones. Osteoporosis affects already-constructed bones.

Besides bone health, vitamin D plays a role in the function of the immune system and helps to reduce inflammation. Also, vitamin D is found in just about every cell in the body, meaning that this vitamin is needed for cell differentiation and growth.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

Here’s where part of the debate comes in. The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for vitamin D vary, based on age:

  • Birth to 50 years: 200 international units (IU)
  • 51 to 70 years: 400 IU
  • 71+: 600 IU

Pregnant and lactating women need 200 IU of vitamin D.

Are the DRIs for vitamin D high enough? The feeling from the medical community lately is that the established requirements for vitamin D aren’t enough, and that an intake between 800 to 1,000 IU would be better to aim for, especially for people at risk for deficiency, including older adults, those with limited sun exposure, those with gastrointestinal disorders, and people with darker skin.