Diabetes and Sunlight Continued: Has Sunlight Deficiency led to the Increase in Type-1 Diabetes?

Diabetes and Sunlight Continued: Has Sunlight Deficiency led to the Increase in Type-1 Diabetes?

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

Type-1 diabetes results when the pancreas ceases to produce insulin. Type-1 is a disease that afflicts many babies and young people and is sometimes known as “juvenile diabetes.” It is an autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, and is totally different in its cause than type-2, which is caused by atrocious eating habits and obesity.

There was a 30.5% increase in the disease between 2001 and 2009,[i] and there are many theories as to the cause, including increasing dairy consumption, improper hygiene, viruses, and vitamin D deficiency.[ii] As with type-2 diabetes, type-one results in dramatically increased risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, neuropathy, amputation, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and erectile dysfunction. With either type of diabetes, it is not usually the disease that kills; it is the other diseases that result from it.

Here are some facts about the relationship between sunlight and type-one:

  1. Children born in northern climes where there is a short time where vitamin D is available from sunlight, due to low levels of UVB for six months of the year, have the highest risk of type-one. And in Finland, where the risk of type-1 is the highest in the world, it has been shown that children who were not supplemented with at least 2,000 IU vitamin D daily had five times the risk of type-one diabetes compared to children who were given 2,000 IU per day or more.[iii] 

  1. The above statement is impressive, but consider this: a child in Finland is about 400 times more likely than a child in Venezuela to acquire type-1, and across the globe, there is a marked geographic variation in incidence of the disease, with high latitude countries having the highest incidence and equatorial countries having the lowest incidence.[iv] Obviously, the difference in risk of type-one between Finland and Venezuela is due to amount of sunlight between the two countries. Sunlight stimulates the skin to produce vitamin D, so it might be surmised that high vitamin D levels in Venezuela are responsible for the exponentially lower risk. I agree that high vitamin D is an important part of prevention of type-one diabetes. Nonetheless, I don’t believe vitamin D to be the only factor. A 400:1 ratio of disease risk (400 cases in Finland for each one in Venezuela) is far beyond what was accomplished in the supplement research in Finland. 

  1. Consider this: high sunlight exposure has a far more beneficial effect on MS than vitamin D per se. Since both MS and type-1 diabetes are autoimmune diseases, it is likely that sunlight has its own independent effects in preventing type-one diabetes, as it does with MS. Some of these effects may be due to the nitric oxide, endorphins and serotonin, all of which are produced by the body when it is exposed to sunlight.

The bottom line is this: to prevent type-1 diabetes in yourself and your children, get plenty of non-burning sunlight exposure, which will not only produce marvelous effects due to vitamin D, but likely will go far beyond vitamin D in exerting its own independent health effects.

Enjoy a sunny day!

[i] Dabelea D, Mayer-Davis EJ, Saydah S, Imperatore G, Linder B, Divers J et al. Prevalence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents from 2001 to 2009. JAMA. 2014 May 7;311(17):1778-86.

[ii] Egro FM. Why is type 1 diabetes increasing? J Mol Endocrinol 2013 12;51(1):R1-13.

[iii] Hypponen, E. et al. Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. Lancet 2001;358:1500-03.

[iv] Dimitrios Papandreou, Pavlos Malindretos, Zacharoula Karabouta, and Israel Rousso. Possible Health Implications and Low Vitamin D Status during Childhood and Adolescence: An Updated Mini Review.

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