The power of vitamin D has been well documented, especially recently, with many health experts declaring the vitamin being a possible way to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a number of important roles in the body, including maintaining the health of bones, teeth and joints, and assisting immune system function. But could vitamin D also help to reduce the risk of diabetes?
A study published in Plos One and led by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Seoul National University, suggests that persons deficient in vitamin D may be at much greater risk of developing diabetes.
The study noted: “It has been reported that higher plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
“We performed a cohort study of 903 adults who were known to be free of diabetes or pre-diabetes during a 1997–1999.
“Plasma was measured at the center during 1977–1979 and the mean age was 74 years.
“The visit also included fasting plasma glucose and oral glucose tolerance testing.”
The results were 47 cases of diabetes and 337 cases of pre-diabetes with the study concluding that further research is needed on whether high 25(OH)D might prevent type 2 diabetes or transition of prediabetes to diabetes.
“We found that participants with blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D that were above 30 ng/ml had one-third of the risk of diabetes and those with levels above 50 ng/ml had one-fifth of the risk of developing diabetes,” said first author Sue K. Park, MD, in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea.
Study co-author Cedric F. Garland, DrPH, adjunct professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, said persons with 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 30 ng/ml were considered vitamin D deficient.
These persons, the researchers found, were up to five times at greater risk for developing diabetes than people with levels above 50 ng/ml.
Garland, who has previously investigated connections between vitamin D levels and various types of cancer, said the study builds upon previous epidemiological research linking vitamin D deficiency to a higher risk of diabetes.
Epidemiological studies analyse the distribution and determinants of health and disease conditions. They do not necessarily prove cause-and-effect.
“Further research is needed on whether high 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels might prevent type 2 diabetes or the transition from pre-diabetes to diabetes,” said Garland. “But this paper and past research indicate there is a strong association.”
The signs of Vitamin D deficiency can range from bone pain and muscle weakness to depression and weakened immune system, while longer-term deficiency can result in obesity, high blood pressure, psoriasis, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes, said Diabetes.co.uk.
The health site continued: “Vitamin D is believed to help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin – the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels – and thus reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
“Some scientists also believe this vitamin may help regulate the production of insulin in the pancreas.”
There are two forms of this vitamin D which include either D2 or D3
Vitamin D2 is a synthetic version which has a shorter shelf life, whereas vitamin D3 is the same as the vitamin D that is produced by the body following exposure to UVB rays.
Studies have shown that vitamin D3 appears to be more than three times as effective as vitamin D2, but most products that include the words “good source of vitamin D” or “fortified with vitamin D” on their labels contain vitamin D2.