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A report in the December issue of the journal Diabetologia says that a study of 1,000 active-duty military personnel who later developed type 1 diabetes showed that low levels of vitamin D significantly increased the chances of developing the disease.
Researchers at the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California San Diego matched blood samples that had been drawn from the military members from 2002 to 2008, with samples taken from healthy persons of the same age and sex drawn at the same time. The comparisons showed that persons with 17 nanograms or less of vitamin D per milliliter of blood were three times more likely to develop type 1 than people whose vitamin D levels were above 40 nanograms.
Military personnel whose vitamin D readings were between 17 and 23 nanograms per milliliter of blood were twice as likely to develop the disease. Readings of 24 to 40 nanograms did not correlate to an increase risk of type 1.
Although the study, which was not designed as randomized, controlled trial, suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and the development of type 1, its authors do not say that they have found a cause for the disease. However one of the researchers involved in the study said that diabetes could be like rickets, scurvy, and pellagra, diseases that can be prevented by vitamin supplements.
Other current research approaches to finding a cause for the adult onset of juvenile diabetes include looking into viruses as a possible agent.
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