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Vitamin D deficiency may significantly increase diabetes risk, according to new study

Posted on: May 16, 2018   by  Vitamin D Council


Diabetes is an ever-growing epidemic in today’s society. In fact, an estimated 30 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes in the US alone. Between strict dietary adjustments, medication requirements and dangerous health consequences of improper disease management, diabetes causes a significant emotional, economic and physical burden for both individuals with the disease and their loved ones.

There are a variety of modifiable factors that can help protect individuals from developing type 2 diabetes, including maintaining healthy eating habits and exercising regularly.

In addition, research suggests vitamin D may play an important role in helping your body maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Doctors and scientists theorize this relationship exists due to vitamin D’s ability to regulate pancreatic beta-cell function, insulin levels and inflammation.

Does vitamin D deficiency increase diabetes risk?

A recent study conducted in China aimed to determine whether vitamin D status was a predictor of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes onset over a four-year period. A total of 490 healthy individuals were included in the study. The participants had their 25(OH)D, glucose and insulin levels measured at baseline and completion of the study.

Vitamin D levels were separated into four quartiles:

  • Quartile 1: 5.58 – 13.42 ng/ml (13.93 – 33.56 nmol/l)
  • Quartile 2: 13.43 – 16.04 ng/ml (33.57 – 40.11 nmol/l)
  • Quartile 3: 16.05 – 18.55 ng/ml (40.12 – 46.38 nmol/l)
  • Quartile 4: 18.56 – 32.12 ng/ml (46.39 – 80.30 nmol/l)

Here is what the researchers found:

  • A total of 48.5% of participants developed prediabetes, and 15.8% developed type 2 diabetes.
  • Those with low vitamin D levels experienced a 3-fold increased odds of developing prediabetes (OR: 3.01 (95% CI: 1.50–6.06), p = 0 002) and over a 5.5-fold increased odds of developing type 2 diabetes (OR: 5.61 (95% CI: 1.73–18.27), p = 0 004).
  • Low vitamin D status was an independent predictor for impaired insulin sensitivity over a period of four years (p < 0.05).

The researchers concluded,

“The current prospective study suggests that low 25(OH)D levels might have contributed to the incidence of prediabetes or T2DM in Chinese individuals.”

Vitamin D Council recommendations

In order for adults to reach vitamin D sufficiency, the Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with between 5,000-10,000 IU vitamin D3 on days you are unable to receive safe, sensible sun exposure when your shadow is shorter than you are tall.

Do you have any questions we can help answer? Email us at [email protected] to chat with someone from our team.


Gao, Y. et al. Vitamin D and Incidence of Prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes: A Four-Year Follow-Up Community-Based Study. Disease Markers, 2018.

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