Vitamin D supplement in early childhood and risk for Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. The EURODIAB Substudy 2 Study Group.Diabetologia 1999; 42(1):51-4D
The initiation of the immunopathogenetic process that can lead to Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus in childhood probably occurs early in life. Studies in vitro have shown that vitamin D3 is immunosuppressive or immunomodulating and studies in experimental models of autoimmunity, including one for autoimmune diabetes, have shown vitamin D to be protective. Seven centres in Europe with access to population-based and validated case registers of insulin-dependent diabetes patients participated in a case-control study focusing on early exposures and risk of Type I diabetes. Altogether data from 820 patients and 2335 control subjects corresponding to 85% of eligible patients and 76% of eligible control subjects were analysed. Questions focused on perinatal events and early eating habits including vitamin D supplementation. The frequency of vitamin D supplementation in different countries varied from 47 to 97% among control subjects. Vitamin D supplementation was associated with a decreased risk of Type I diabetes without indication of heterogeneity. The Mantel-Haenszel combined odds ratio was 0.67 (95% confidence limits: 0.53, 0.86). Adjustment for the possible confounders: a low birth weight, a short duration of breast feeding, old maternal age and study centre in logistic regression analysis did not affect the significant protective effect of vitamin D. In conclusion, this large multicentre trial covering many different European settings consistently showed a protective effect of vitamin D supplementation in infancy. The findings indicate that activated vitamin D might contribute to immune modulation and thereby protect or arrest an ongoing immune process initiated in susceptible people by early environmental exposures.