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.