Immunomodulatory Effect of Vitamin D and Its Potential Role in the Prevention and Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus-A Narrative Review

Molecules. 2018 Dec 24;24(1):53. doi: 10.3390/molecules24010053.


Type 1 diabetes mellitus is a chronic autoimmune disease associated with degeneration of pancreatic β-cells that results in an inability to produce insulin and the need for exogenous insulin administration. It is a significant global health problem as the incidence of this disorder is increasing worldwide. The causes are still poorly understood, although it certainly has genetic and environmental origins. Vitamin D formed profusely in the skin upon exposure to sunlight, as well as from dietary sources, exhibits an immunomodulatory effect based on gene transcription control. Indeed, vitamin D can downregulate mechanisms connected with adaptive immunity, induce immunological tolerance and decrease auto-aggression-related inflammation. These properties provide the basis for a preventive and therapeutic role of vitamin D. As many studies have demonstrated, appropriate supplementation with vitamin D reduces the risk of autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes mellitus, and alleviates disease symptoms in patients. The aim of this narrative review is to present the molecular mechanisms for the vitamin D immunomodulatory effect as well as review human clinical studies on the use of vitamin D as adjuvant therapy in type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Keywords: calcitriol; immunomodulatory effect; type 1 diabetes mellitus; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / prevention & control*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacology
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Public Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamins / pharmacology
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Immunologic Factors
  • Vitamins