Friday, March 6, 2009

Can sunlight reduce the risk of type-one diabetes in children?

A recent study conducted in Newfoundland, Canada, compared sunlight exposure at different times and locations to the risk of type-one diabetes in children.[i] As I would have expected, the children who received the least sunlight were at greatest risk for type-one diabetes. Sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D, so the results were probably exactly what the researchers anticipated. Why should they have anticipated that result? An earlier study showed that among children who were supplemented with 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily, the risk of type-on diabetes was only 1/5 of the risk among children who were supplemented with less than 2,000 IU.[ii] Among those who were not supplemented at all, the risk was 8 times greater.

“Protecting” children from the sunlight is creating a terrible burden of poor health, and type-one diabetes is only one of its many manifestations. Safe, non-burning sun exposure is an integral part of childhood that should not be neglected.

[i] Sloka, S. Time series analysis of ultraviolet B radiation and type 1 diabetes in Newfoundland. Pediatric Diabetes 2008:9:81–6.
[ii] Hypponen, E. et al. Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. Lancet 2001;358:1500-03.

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