Adequate levels of vitamin D during young adulthood may halve the risk of adult-onset Type 1 diabetes, according to a new research.

The findings by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) could lead to a role for vitamin D supplementation in preventing this serious auto-immune disease in adults, when the immune system starts damaging tissues.

“It is surprising that a serious disease such as Type 1 diabetes could perhaps be prevented by a simple and safe intervention,” said Kassandra Munger, research associate at HSPH, who led the study, the American Journal of Epidemiology reports.

In Type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and permanently disables the insulin-making cells in the pancreas. About five per cent of the estimated 25.8 million people in the U.S. suffer from this condition, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Although it often starts in childhood, about 60 per cent of Type 1 diabetes cases occur after age 20, according to a Harvard statement.

Identifying 310 individuals diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes between 1997 and 2009, the team examined blood samples taken before onset of the disease, and compared the samples with those of 613 people in a control group, not having the disease.

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