Can we prevent the onset of Type 1 diabetes in our children? Like everything else, I suppose the answer to this depends on who you ask. This person’s answer, in turn, will result in what they read to stay current. I find that, in those who do not believe that chronic diseases can be avoiding or controlled without medication, their scope of learning is restricted.

First, a little clarification. Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile onset or insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 2 used to be called adult onset or insulin-independent diabetes. Given how much our current lifestyle has completely screwed up our collective health, these titles no longer apply.

In general, Type 1 diabetes results from either an autoimmune attack on the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas, destroying the body’s ability to produce insulin, or from destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas from lifestyle contributions and / or diabetic medications.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, results when the need for insulin to control blood glucose exceeds the beta cell’s ability to keep up. This is best approached with lifestyle changes to revert our physiology back to a happier state.

In contradiction to their nomenclature, “adult onset” diabetes is now being seen in children because of the poor lifestyle choices their parents have ingrained upon them. Further, “juvenile onset” diabetes, or insulin dependent, is the end result of poorly controlled (read: managed exclusively with medication) Type 2 diabetes.

The official position of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF) is that we do not yet know what causes Type 1 diabetes in our children (the only suggestion their website gives to “prevent” Type 1 diabetes is to “focus on developing vaccines for universal infant and childhood immunization”) . Meanwhile, the advice they give to help manage this condition is superficial and seems to be heavily influenced by funding received from dubious sources like large confectionery and junk food companies that will remain nameless (but are listed on the JDRF website).

The research demonstrates several contributing factors to the development of Type 1 diabetes that I am aware of:

  1. Dairy places an important role in the onset of Type 1 diabetes, based on the fact that the countries with the highest intakes of dairy have the highest incidence of Type 1 diabetes as well as findings that suggest that there is molecular mimicry between proteins in the dairy and proteins in the beta cells of the pancreas.
  2. Niacinamide, one of the B vitamins, has been shown to prevent or stump the development of Type 1 diabetes.
  3. Vitamin D seems to play a strong role in the development of autoimmunity in general, and Type 1 diabetes in particular.
  4. Zinc has been shown to play a strong role in preventing Type 1 diabetes
  5. Bacteria in the gut may play a strong role in the development of Type 1 diabetes.  This also means that antibiotic use may increase the risk.
  6. Celiac disease, an allergy to the gluten containing portion of grains, has strong associations with the onset of Type 1 diabetes, and even shows up before the onset of the diabetes.

This particular study adds further weight to the contribution of vitamin D to the development of Type 1 diabetes. Researchers found that hormone levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH) where linked to the development of Type 1 diabetes in the siblings of those already afflicted with the condition.

PTH is a hormone (although the name sounds like it might be related to the thyroid, it is merely a description of where the gland sits – “para” meaning around or near) that the body uses to essentially lowers calcium levels in the bloodstream. It does this by increasing bone turnover and increasing the absorption of calcium from out diet via the gut. Elevated levels of the active form of vitamin D lower the release of PTH, lest we raise calcium levels too high in the bloodstream.

Since Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, the researchers looked at the ratio of two opposing states of the immune system, IgG2 and IgE. IgG2 is a marker of our body’s attack against things inside (the far spectrum of which is our body mistakenly attacking itself), while IgE is a marker of the body stopping things from getting in in the first place (the far spectrum of which is allergies and asthma). They found that, in those with higher levels of PTH (which can be used as a marker of the active form of vitamin D) the above ratio was suggestive of autoimmunity.

Thus, this study adds more weight to previous findings that suggest that vitamin D plays a role in the development of Type 1 diabetes. It is findings like this that convince me that giving vitamin D supplementation to children is a very good idea.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.