What is it about?

We found that children and adolescents developing diabetes have low levels of Vitamin D in blood. Vitamin D has several roles in human health: skeletal growth and function, immune defenses, others. Since the development of diabetes may be also favored by infectious agents (viruses are among these agents), reduced immune defenses may lead to the non-eradication of common viral infections. Through steps still to be defined, in some cases these infections may extend to endocrine cells in the pancreas, thus reducing the production of insulin (an hormone essential for glucose metabolism). The findings suggest that maintaining adequate levels of Vitamin D could result in protection against diabetes in the young, especially in those with genetic predisposition to type 1 diabetes.

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Why is it important?

Vitamin D is essential to support adequate immune functions. Among these, the innate antiviral responses play a key role in preventing the establishment of persistent infection by common human pathogens (e.g., enteroviruses, respiratory viruses, coronaviruses, others). Persistent infections not only damage tissues, but may promote autoimmune responses in genetically predisposed subjects.

Perspectives

Practical hints: maintaining adequate vitamin D levels and sunlight exposure for children and adults does provide a significant and cheap contribution to better health.

Antonio Toniolo
Universita degli Studi dell'Insubria

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This page is a summary of: Vitamin D status, enterovirus infection, and type 1 diabetes in Italian children/adolescents, Pediatric Diabetes, April 2018, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/pedi.12673.
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