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Vitamin D may help prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus

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By David Liu, PHD

Tuesday March 26, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- Maintaining a high level of vitamin D in the blood may help prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus, according to a new study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study does not prove that high serum levels of vitamin D can really prevent the disease.  Instead, it merely finds high serum vitamin D levels are associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.  But it is still possible that low vitamin D is a cause for the disease.

S Lim from Seoul National University College of Medicine and Seoul National University Bundang Hospital in Seongnam, Korea and colleagues conducted the study and found men and women who who had 11-19.9 ng/mL of 25(OH)D (vitamin D insufficiency) were twice as likely as those who had greater than 20 ng/mL (vitamin D sufficiency).

The risk was even greater in those who had lower than 10 ng/mL of vitamin D.  Compared with those who had greater than 20 ng/mL of serum vitamin D, risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus in those who had less than 10 ng/mL (Vitamin D deficiency) was more than tripled.

These two associations were established after adjustment for a range of known risk factors including age, gender, blood pressure, lifestyles, family history of diabetes, season variations, parathyroid hormone, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. This means there is a likelihood that vitamin D is theoritically responsible for the increase in the risk.

It was also found that these associations were independent of body mass index, HOMA2-IR, and IGI.

The researchers concluded "The current prospective study suggests that vitamin D metabolism may play a role in T2D  (type 2 diabetes) pathogenesis independently of known risk factors."

About the study

Previous studies have already found an association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] and type 2 diabetes.  The current study was intended to establish an association with other factors considered including obesity, insulin resistance and pancreatic β cell function. 

The researchers hypothesized that vitamin D levels were associated with incidence of type 2 diabetes in high risk men and women independent of obesity, insulin resistance and β cell function.

For the study, 1,080 nondiabetic Korean subjects at a mean age of 50 years, who had one or more risk factors including obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia and or family history of type 2 diabetes mellitus, were followed for up to five years.

At baseline, anthropometric and biochemical indicators including HOMA2-IR and insulinogenic index were tested in addition to vitamin D.

Of subjects, 10.5% had vitamin D deficiency defined as having less than 10 ng/mL of serum vitamin D, 51.6 had vitamin D insufficiency defined as having 10 to 19.9 ng/mL and 38% had vitamin D sufficiency defined  as having greater than 20 ng/mL of serum vitamin D.

The researchers found high serum vitamin D levels were linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.  The incidence in these three groups was 15.9%, 10.2% and 5.4%, respectively.

Take-home message

Although this study by itself does not prove that vitamin D deficiency is a cause for type 2 diabetes mellitus,  it is advisable that food consumers need to maintain an adequate level of vitamin D.  Vitamin D has been known to be an important for bone health.  Also recent research has suggested that vitamin D deficiency is linked with more  than 100 health diseases or conditions including cancer, hypertension, infections, diabetes, heart disease, depression, among other  things.

Vitamin D is produced after one exposes himself to the sun.  It is believed that 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure at the hottest hours of the day can induce the synthesis of 10,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D.  Because of this, many vitamin D experts suggest that the currently recommended dailly allowance - 600 IU per day for most people is way below what people need.  Vitamin D Council - a non-profit organization recommends that people take 4000 to 5000 IU of vitamin D daily in order to have a protective effect against a range of diseases.

Vitamin D is not commonly present in foods naturally although some foods are fortified with this vitamin.   Dietary supplements are one good source particularly in Winter.  Just remember that the vitamin D supplement you take should not carry potentially toxic fillers such as silica, which as nanoparticles can disrupt DNAas studies have discovered, potentially leading to mutagenesis and carcinogenesis.

Those who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus may also want to consider taking curcumin in a dose of 6 grams per day.  An Indian study has shown that individuals who had pre-diabetes prevented the development of type 2 diabetes. 

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