Type 1 diabetes, as opposed to the more common type 2 diabetes, usually strikes children, leading to a lifetime of carb counting and insulin pumps.
As the father of a now-8-year-old son, I could not imagine him living life attached to an insulin pump. Type 1 diabetes can also strike adults, but more often than not, it is because he or she has poorly managed his or her Type 2 diabetes for long enough to kill off the beta cells of the pancreas. But for the kids, it’s a different story. The onset of this lifelong condition is not because of choices they have made, but because the immune system has decided to attack inward, destroying the very cells of the pancreas that produce the critically important insulin.
Over the years, scientists and researchers have begun to understand more and more about what contributes to the misdirection of the immune system. I have covered many of these in previous blog articles that can be read by clicking here, but here’s a quick synopsis:
- Dairy may be a culprit, despite the rose-colored glasses that public health gurus seem to view dairy products through.
- Probiotics can help stave off type 1 diabetes (or antibiotics may contribute to diabetes, depending upon how you look at it).
- Celiac disease / gluten sensitivity.
- Vitamin D deficiency.
This particular article focuses on the vitamin D deficiency aspect. Specifically, researchers looked at a small group of type 1 diabetic children who were deficient in vitamin D levels (<20 ng/ml) and were given enough vitamin D to keep levels above 50 ng/ml for up to one year (50 ng/ml, by the way, is a respectable level and far above the “sufficient” level of 20 ng/ml).
After getting blood levels of vitamin D up high enough, the researchers looked at what effect this had on immune system attacks against the pancreas (as measured by peripheral blood mononuclear cell reactivity against beta-cell autoantigens like glutamic acid decarboxylase 65-kD isoform, proinsulin and tyrosine phosphatase-like protein IA-2) as well as C-peptide levels (C-peptide is an indirect marker of how much insulin the pancreas is producing).
Here’s what they found:
- Vitamin D levels were safely reached and maintained.
- Immune system attacks against the pancreas dropped after vitamin D supplementation.
- C-peptide values remained stable after one year of treatment, meaning that the pancreas was still doing its job of producing insulin.
Talk about a simple intervention that can have a lifelong impact. While this may seem surprising to some, one of the consistent effects of vitamin D is on introducing or maintaining balance in the immune system. This is why it seems to play such a huge role in the onset of multiple sclerosis as well.