Use of cod liver oil during pregnancy associated with lower risk of Type I diabetes in the offspring

Diabetologia. 2000 Sep;43(9):1093-8. doi: 10.1007/s001250051499.


Aims/hypothesis: To test whether cod liver oil or vitamin D supplements either taken by the mother during pregnancy or by the child in the first year of life is associated with lower risk of Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus in children.

Methods: We carried out a population-based case control study in Vest-Agder county of Norway, evaluating the use of supplements by a mailed questionnaire. We received responses from 85 diabetic subjects and 1,071 control subjects. Odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated using logistic regression analyses.

Results: When mothers took cod liver oil during pregnancy their offspring had a lower risk of diabetes. The unadjusted OR was 0.30, 95% CI: (0.12 to 0.75), p = 0.01. This association changed very little and was still significant after adjusting for age, sex, breastfeeding and maternal education. Mothers taking multivitamin supplements during pregnancy [adjusted OR= 1.11, 95% CI: (0.69 to 1.77)], infants taking cod liver oil in the first year of life [adjusted OR = 0.82, 95 % CI: (0.47 to 1.42) and the use of other vitamin D supplements in the first year of life [adjusted OR = 1.27, 95 % CI: (0.70 to 2.31)] was not [corrected] significantly associated with the risk of diabetes.

Conclusion/interpretation: We found that cod liver oil taken during pregnancy was associated with reduced risk of Type I diabetes in the offspring. This suggests that vitamin D or the n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid in the cod liver oil, or both, have a protective effect against Type I diabetes.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cod Liver Oil / administration & dosage*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / prevention & control
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Norway
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / therapy*
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vitamins


  • Vitamins
  • Cod Liver Oil