Studying the role of Vitamin D in the risk of type 1 diabetes

Over the years, doctors have been asked this question countless times by concerned parents. That is because Vitamin D, unlike many other nutrients, plays several key roles when it comes to our health. Not only does it help regulate calcium levels and bone metabolism, but it also functions as a hormone – a switch that occurs with the body’s absorption of the vitamin. This can impact the immune system, which is why getting ample Vitamin D is important for warding off certain medical conditions.

Dr. Despoina Manousaki, a JDRF-funded researcher at the Jewish General Hospital (Lady Davis Institute) in Montreal, is investigating whether having low levels of Vitamin D in the blood increases the likelihood of T1D.

Currently, researchers are using a recognized technique in genetics known as Mendelian randomization (which investigates causal relations between potentially modifiable risk factors and health outcomes) to provide evidence for or against the relationship between Vitamin D and the disease. Should a link be established, these results will be used to ensure that individuals at risk (such as those with family members affected by the disease) have adequate Vitamin D levels.

“The findings of this study, which are based on genetic information from more than 60,000 individuals, would, if positive, support vitamin D sufficiency as a measure to prevent T1D in individuals at risk, such as siblings of affected individuals,” explains Dr. Manousaki. “If negative, they will provide evidence that the association of vitamin D levels with T1D may be attributable to confounding lifestyle factors, which may provide more fruitful targets for disease prevention than vitamin D supplementation.”

Understanding whether Vitamin D plays a role in the predisposition to T1D could present a tremendous opportunity to prevent or decrease the risk of the disease. Individuals with low Vitamin D levels can be identified in the population through simple testing, and Vitamin D administration is both a safe and cost effective way to improve deficiencies.

For more informative articles on health and type 1 diabetes, visit our JDRF Blog

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