New Studies Confirm That High Vitamin D Levels Reduce Risk of Diabetes

New international research confirms that keeping vitamin D levels high may help reduce the odds of developing diabetes, particularly among those who are already at risk.

Diabetes mellitus, a metabolic disorder in which the body produces insufficient insulin to properly process glucose or blood sugar, is among the most widespread conditions in the US.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million people in the US have diabetes, and an estimated 79 million people have prediabetes.

As of 2010, an astounding 1.9 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older each year.

Vitamin D Deficiency Identified As Important Factor In Diabetes Risk And Management

A growing body of research indicates that one of the most important but often overlooked risk factors for developing the disease is low levels of vitamin D, often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because exposure to sunlight triggers the body to produce its own supply of the vitamin.

It is believed that high levels of vitamin D improve secretion of insulin, which is necessary to allow cells to absorb and use glucose, as well as sensitivity to insulin. Low levels of the vitamin have also been found to increase insulin resistance, even among otherwise healthy individuals.

Two recent research projects confirm that keeping D vitamin levels high reduces risk of diabetes

A 2011 German study, conducted by the German Research Centre for Environmental Health in cooperation with the German Diabetes Center and the University of Ulm, showed that individuals with high blood levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus, while the risk for developing the disease is markedly higher among those with low levels of the vitamin.

According to the authors of the study, the anti-inflammatory effect of vitamin D could be among the most important factors in reducing the risk of diabetes. The researchers noted that more than six million people in Germany have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, adding that it is likely that an equal number of undiagnosed cases also exist.

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in Germany, the researchers said, attributable in part to the nation’s geograpgical which makes it difficult to get adequate sun during the winter months and in part to modern, indoor-oriented lifestyles. The study authors said that if follow-up research confirms their findings, a targeted improvement in the supply of vitamin D to the general public could reduce the number of people at risk for developing diabetes.

The results of a new US study, conducted by Tufts New England Medical Center, echoed the findings of the German research. The Tufts study, which was recently presented at the American Diabetes Association 71st Scientific Sessions, monitored more than 2,000 patients with prediabetes over a period of three years.

The results showed that the risk for diabetes was lowest among those with the highest vitamin D levels, while risk for the disease was highest among those most deficient in the vitamin.

Low Vitamin D Linked To Child/Adolescent Obesity

Can low levels of vitamin D increase your child’s risk of getting fat, staying fat, and developing diabetes? New studies suggest the answer may be yes.

A recent study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas is the latest of many to show a strong link between vitamin d deficiency and obesity, insulin resistance, and increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.

The study, which monitored levels of vitamin D, blood sugar, serum insulin, blood pressure, and dietary habits in a group of several hundred obese children, indicated that the children with the lowest levels of the vitamin were the most obese, had the highest levels of insulin resistance, and were therefore at the greatest risk of having prediabetes.

The study also linked poor dietary habits with low d vitamin levels and diabetes risk. Older children and teenagers in the study group had the lowest levels of the vitamin, due at least in part to skipping breakfast and drinking more soda, the researchers said.

These findings echo those of a 2011 Hasbro University study published in the Journal Of Adolescent Health that found most obese adolescents have insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels. That study also found that raising the levels of the vitamin in obese adolescents was challenging; a standard course of supplemental vitamin D brought only about 43 percent of the obese adolescents to sufficiency levels, and even repeated courses of supplemental vitamin D failed to bring a significant percentage of the subjects to sufficiency.

The incidence of childhood obesity has reached what many experts consider epidemic proportions. According to recent estimates, 18% of US children and adolescents are obese, more than tripling the rate of child/adolescent obesity over the past 40 years. And the epidemic of overweight children isn’t limited to the US; 2011 research by the University of Bristol estimated that childhood obesity is also a problem in the UK, affecting one out of five children there.

How great a role does the sunshine vitamin – or the lack thereof – play in childhood obesity? Experts say that while more research is needed to determine whether vitamin d deficiency is a side effect or a causal factor, the dangers of insufficient levels of the vitamin remain critical to overweight children.

Vitamin D deficiency, once associated primarily with the development of the bone-softening disease rickets, has long been linked to a whole host of serious health problems. In addition to bone and skeletal weakness, low levels of the vitamin are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease, asthma, dental problems, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.

The current recommended daily intake of vitamin D is set at 600 IU for children and adults up to 70 years of age, an amount that some experts question as being too low for the population in general and for overweight people in particular, since obesity is believed to interfere with the body’s utilization of the vitamin.

While exposure to sunlight triggers the body to manufacture the vitamin, limited sun exposure due to climate and lifestyle choices can lead to serious deficiency. Parents are urged to encourage their children to get reasonable sun exposure through outdoor play, and to make sure their children’s diet includes foods that have extra vitamin D added (including fortified milk, cereal, and other dairy products.)

Vitamin D: The Anti-Diabetes Vitamin?

Could vitamin D be the anti-diabetes vitamin, improving insulin resistance and sensitivity? According to a recent university study, it may be true.

If you’re concerned about diabetes, you’re certainly not alone. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 20 million Americans are currently affected by the condition, and more than 40 millions Americans have pre-diabetes, also known as early type 2 diabetes. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes involve either or both insufficient insulin production and resistance to the insulin produced; type 1 diabetes is an unpreventable congenital condition, whereas type 2 diabetes is usually developed as the result of a physically inactive lifestyle and/or being overweight. Diabetes causes many physical complications, and can lead to kidney, eye, and nervous system diseases, and is known to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

What gives vitamin D the potential to be the anti-diabetes vitamin? According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, taking vitamin D supplements may help improve improve insulin resistance and sensitivity. The study was conducted by researchers at Auckland, Australia’s Massey University, and found that increasing vitamin D levels in the blood of 42 insulin-resistant women dramatically improved their insulin sensitivity.

The controlled, double-blind study lasted six months, and involved 81 women, ranging in age from 23 – 68. 42 of the women were given 4000 IU of vitamin D daily, while 39 were given a placebo. While the vitamin D supplements didn’t result in increased insulin production, they did have the effect of making the women drastically more sensitive to the insulin they were already producing. The researchers concluded that taking a 4000 IU dose of vitamin D daily over the course of six months can help us use the insulin we produce more effectively, significantly reducing our risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

This research seems to indicate vitamin D does, in fact, have serious potential as an anti-diabetes vitamin. However, taking vitamin D is just one piece of the diabetes prevention and control puzzle. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating nutritious foods, and living an active lifestyle which includes plenty of exercise are of tantamount importance when it comes to preventing and controlling the disease.

Vitamin D can’t get you off the couch, but research has shown that when you do exercise, it may help your muscles perform better. A study conducted at England’s University of Manchester showed that adolescent girls with sufficient vitamin D levels outperformed those with vitamin D deficiencies on a wide range of tests designed to measure muscle power and force. Their findings suggest that vitamin d may help your muscles function at their best, and good muscle function can make exercise even more beneficial for your body.

If you have or are at risk for developing diabetes, vitamin D may be an important part of the picture on several levels. Discuss vitamin D and any other supplements you’re taking with your doctor, and follow his or her recommendations on controlling or preventing diabetes.