The purpose of this post is to alert readers to the positive impact Vitamin D can have on Type 2 Diabetes.  I recently read an article on Vitamin D and its role in Diabetes and share highlights of that article below.

Vitamin D and Its Role in Diabetes

By Chris Ruden

April 21st, 2017

Vitamin D, otherwise knows as the “sunshine vitamin,” is vital for bone health but may soon be regarded as an important marker of health similar to cholesterol and blood pressure. Over the last few decades, scientists have looked past the skeletal support this micronutrient offers and are discovering that vitamin D may play a vital role in insulin, glucose, and inflammation regulation as well as potentially being a warning sign for different cardiovascular and endocrine diseases — including type 2 diabetes.

So What Exactly Is Vitamin D?

Vitamins are chemicals the body needs to function properly and are required to maintain good health. There are two main categories of vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble vitamins.

…Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D are stored in the liver and fatty tissue and are not always required daily by everyone (depending on your nutritional status).

Excessive amounts of vitamin D and other fat-soluble vitamins can be toxic, but being deficient in one of these vitamins can cause numerous other health problems as well.

Vitamin D is unlike any other micronutrient in that the body can produce its own from sunlight whereas most other vitamins are acquired by the foods you eat.

3 Ways to Get Vitamin D

The three main ways to get vitamin D are through sun exposure, vitamin D supplementation, and dietary intake.

Sun/UVB

The best way to get vitamin D is to get some sun exposure. After all, it is the “sunshine vitamin.” The human body was designed to convert the ultraviolet (UVB) rays from sunlight into vitamin D– the same UVB rays that can cause sunburn. Vitamin D is considered “inactive” until sunlight causes a chemical reaction producing vitamin D that is then sent throughout the body to the corresponding tissues.

Supplementation

Some people are at a greater disadvantage in producing optimal vitamin D levels from the sun including those who:

  • Have a dark skin complexion
  • Live farther away from the equator
  • Are overweight
  • Are older
  • Stay covered up in the sun

For those people who can’t regularly achieve optimal vitamin D levels through sun exposure alone, vitamin D supplementation may be necessary. Below is a list of the recommended daily allowance and upper limits of vitamin D supplementation from the National Institute of Health

Why Vitamin D Is So Important

Researchers discovered decades ago that vitamin D aided in bone strength and bone health as calcium and phosphorus, minerals needed for healthy bones, require the presence of vitamin D in order to be absorbed. A combined analysis of 12 fracture prevention trials that included more than 40,000 elderly people (mostly women) found that high intakes of vitamin D supplements reduced hip and non-spine fractures by 20 percent.1

With the benefits of vitamin D being well documented, researchers began exploring the possible negative side effects of not having enough vitamin D and found that those deficient in this micronutrient:

  • Are twice as likely to have a heart attack as men who had adequate levels of vitamin D 2
  • Have higher risk of heart failure, sudden cardiac death, stroke, overall cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular death 3, 4
  • May be more likely to develop type 2 (possibly even type 1) diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome 5

Along with a CVD correlation, vitamin D levels may play a role in diabetes prevention and management.

Vitamin D & Diabetes

There are vitamin D receptors in almost all the cells in the body, suggesting vitamin D plays a role in most chemical processes but some of the more interesting roles in vitamin D include beta cell function and regulation– the cornerstone of diabetes.

Beta Cell Function & Insulin

The beta cells in the pancreas are responsible for producing and secreting insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the beta cells are destroyed by the body’s immune system and in type 2 diabetes, the beta cells attempt to over-produce insulin due to increasing insulin resistance caused by a variety of factors (lack of activity, excessive abdominal fat, genetics etc.).

Vitamin D, while still not completely definitive in relation to balancing glucose levels, is present in beta cells and may affect insulin production and secretion as insulin secretion is dependent on calcium (and calcium absorption is dependent on vitamin D). Some animal studies demonstrated removing vitamin D receptors, or creating a state of vitamin D deficiency, resulted in less insulin produced when needed and correcting vitamin D status restored proper insulin function. 6

Researchers have also noted a deficiency in vitamin D possibly related to decreased insulin sensitivity, which is seen prior to and post T2DM diagnosis. 7

Parathyroid Hormone & Insulin Resistance

Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked with an increase in parathyroid hormone, or hyperparathyroidism, which decreases insulin sensitivity as well.8

Note: bold arrows indicate firmly established cause and effect  relationships and dotted arrows are relationships that are still in question

More and more evidence is showing vitamin D levels may be something to check and improve for overall health, improvement of diabetes management, and decreased risk of complications.

Preventing Diabetes With Vitamin D

A multitude of studies have explored the amount of vitamin D people get related to the incidence of T2DM.

  • A 2006 report from the Nurse’s Health Study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, followed over 80,000 women for 20 years. Women in the study who had both a calcium intake of more than 1,200 mg and a vitamin D intake of more than 800 IU had a 33% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. 9
  • A 2011 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a higher vitamin D intake decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 13% compared with a lower vitamin D intake. Individuals with the highest vitamin D status had a 43% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those in the lowest group. 10
  • A 2013 study in Diabetes Care showed that higher vitamin D levels in mice were associated with decreased prevalence of T2DM. Specifically, each 10 nmol/L increment in vitamin D levels was associated with a 4% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. 11

While a variety of studies link the prevalence of T2DM to vitamin D deficiency and attempt to reduce prevalence through vitamin D supplementation, evidence is just not conclusive in asserting vitamin D can significantly reduce or prevent T2DM. Further, large-scale human trials need to be conducted to prove more significance.

Diabetes Complications & Vitamin D

Old man has heart ache.The most common complication in patients with T2DM is cardiovascular disease, and research is approaching significance between vitamin D deficiency and markers for CVD.

Research up until 2017 as been very inconclusive: A wide variety of studies attempt to link vitamin D deficiency to diabetes (primarily T2DM) and cardiovascular disease, regarding vitamin D as a potential preventative or treatment measure for improved glucose homeostasis but lack the significance in their findings.

Multiple studies have drawn a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and insulin resistance while other studies have reported no significance or effect of vitamin D. Meta-analysis pooling over 50 studies in the last 40 years concluded the small sample sizes and predominant observational methods just don’t provide enough data to say concretely that vitamin D helps control glucose levels or prevent/reduce insulin resistance in T2DM’s.

Potential Downfalls in Vitamin D Research

Legs of women who are riding on the weight scaleVitamin D deficiency is often seen in association with a higher BMI, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, and insulin resistance– all factors that commonly precede type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Vitamin D deficiency may very well be a significant factor in numerous conditions and diseases like T2DM but there are quite a few limitations in the research.

…Until then, taking vitamin D supplements within a healthy range and getting some sun exposure won’t hurt you and can possibly help you reduce risk for CVD as well as potentially improve insulin sensitivity, aiding in glucose regulation in people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers are enthusiastic about this cheap, safe, and effective solution that can hopefully make a big impact in the lives of diabetics.

If you have T2DM or even T1DM, talk to your doctor about checking your vitamin D levels and taking vitamin D supplements.

Source     Diabetes Daily:Vitamin D and Its Role in Diabetes

 


Category: Manage Diabetes

About the Author

Theresa was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes Fall 2009.

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