Lower vitamin D levels in pregnancy increase risk for type 1 diabetes in offspring

Low vitamin D levels during pregnancy are associated with an increased risk of type 1 diabetes, according to a research paper published in the January 2012 issue of Diabetes.

Researchers in Oslo, Norway reviewed data on more than 29,000 Norwegian women for this study. From that cohort, they identified 109 pregnant women who gave birth to a child who eventually developed type 1 diabetes before age 15 years old.

They found that children had a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes if their mothers had lower levels of vitamin D during pregnancy. The mothers in the lowest quartile of vitamin D levels were twice as likely to have children develop type 1 diabetes compared with the children of women in the highest quartile.

The authors of this research article support an intervention trial to supplement vitamin D levels during pregnancy to prevent type 1 diabetes in children.

Childhood diagnosis

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and adolescents. While the exact cause is still unknown, scientists suspect that it is an autoimmune disorder. It's often passed down through families, according to PubMed Health.

In type 1 diabetes, beta cells in the pancreas do not produce insulin to process blood glucose into energy. Glucose then accumulates unused in the blood.

High levels of blood glucose cause symptoms such as excessive hunger or thirst, fatigue, blurry eyesight, loss of feeling in the feet, weight loss and excessive urination.

When blood glucose levels get even higher, the person may suffer from rapid breathing, dry skin and mouth, flushed face, fruity breath odor, nausea and vomiting and stomach pain.

Diabetes can be diagnosed with blood tests. While there is no cure, people with type 1 diabetes who manage their blood glucose levels well can delay or prevent complications such as nerve damage, heart disease, kidney damage and vision problems.

Common food sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, liver, and fortified milk and orange juice.

Sources: Diabetes, PubMed Health, National Institutes of Health

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