Vitamin D Lack in Children – Could It Be a Cause of Diabetes?

Lower vitamin D levels in children may be associated with developing type 2 diabetes, according to researchers.  However, they cannot yet say whether a deficiency in the vitamin itself is responsible, or whether it is a side effect of modern child lifestyles.

Vitamin D is a vital group of substances which the human body uses to regulate and absorb calcium, needed for the building and repair of bones and teeth.  Calcium also plays a part in many other body functions, including muscle contraction and heart function. Vitamin D is often taken in tablet form by people who suffer from muscle cramps. Vitamin D is found in eggs, oily fish, offal and yeast, but increasingly in the west it is added to foods such as breakfast cereals, bread and margarines.  The body makes vitamin D when the skin of the person is exposed to sunlight, and people who spend plenty of time out of doors may make their entire daily recommended dose of vitamin D themselves.

A team of scientists at theUniversityofTexashas found children with type 2 diabetes tend to have lower levels of the vitamin.  They found these children were more likely to be obese and have higher levels of insulin resistance.

However, the research was not able to tell if the vitamin D deficiency contributed to the disease or was simply a by-product of an unhealthier lifestyle which could have caused the diabetes.  Children on unhealthier diets rich in junk food and processed foods would be less likely to get their full quota of the vitamin.  Additionally, children with inactive habits would be more likely to be inside in front of the television or computer than out in the sunshine and able to make their vitamin D requirements.

In recent years type 2 diabetes, once almost exclusively a disease of the elderly, has been on the increase in younger and younger people as the obesity crisis grows worse.  With obesity a prime factor in developing diabetes, even children are now being diagnosed with the disease.  Children’s lifestyles have been under attack from fatty, sugary processed foods and from lack of exercise as worried moms keep their kids inside from fear of traffic and pedophiles.  Television and computer games have all played their part in keeping children inside instead of playing physical games in the fresh air.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, speaks of the need for further research to determine whether the deficiency in vitamin D is a contributing disease of diabetes or simply a poor lifestyle symptom.  If it is found to be a cause children’s likelihood of getting diabetes could be lessened simply with vitamin supplements.

In the UK,  experiments are being carried out to see if people with type 2 diabetes could benefit from receiving vitamin D supplements.  The charity DiabetesUKis funding research along these lines at GlasgowUniversity.

However, so far the value of taking vitamin supplements to lessen the risk of diabetes is unproven, and the best way to keep your risk down is to maintain a healthy weight, take plenty of exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet with less sugar and fat and more fiber.

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