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Vitamin D may delay progression of clinical diabetes

Posted on: November 29, 2011   by  John Cannell, MD


Diabetes mellitus type 2, or adult-onset diabetes, is epidemic, according to the CDC. It is a disease of high blood sugar with insulin resistance or insulin deficiency. Insulin resistance is what it sounds like. The cells are resistant to the action of insulin, and insulin resistance often leads to adult diabetes. However, adult diabetes is no longer a useful term. Since the sun-scare, adult-onset diabetes is often diagnosed in children. Frequently, but not always, it is a disease of the obese. Exercise and diet helps.

In 2003, about 130 million people in the world had type 2 diabetes. In the United States, 8% of the population has type 2 diabetes. The disease doubled between 1990 and 2005, along with sun-scare, soda, and obesity.

How many times have you heard that we need randomized controlled trials before we start taking vitamin D? Well, they are coming fast and furious. This August , researchers at Tufts University released a double blind randomized controlled trial that showed  2,000 IU/day of vitamin D3 had a major effect on insulin resistance.

Mitri J, Dawson-Hughes B, Hu FB, Pittas AG. Effects of vitamin D and calcium supplementation on pancreatic β cell function, insulin sensitivity, and glycemia in adults at high risk of diabetes: the Calcium and Vitamin D for Diabetes Mellitus (CaDDM) randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 94(2):486-94

I liked what the authors said,

“These results suggested that vitamin D may have a role in delaying the progression to clinical diabetes in adults at high risk of type 2 diabetes. Our results may also be relevant to type 1 diabetes …”

Unfortunately, the beta cells in the pancreas are eventually all destroyed in type 1 diabetes. However, the genetic code for those beta cells remains in the body; maybe someone will learn how to turn those genes back on? Furthermore, many cases of type  1 diabetes still have some functioning beta cells; this study shows vitamin D reduces insulin resistance, perhaps helping you keep what beta cells you have left.

2,000 IU/day for 4 months only increased 25(OH)D levels from  24 to 30 ng/ml.  Why such a small increase in 25(OH)D? The average subject weighed 223 pounds, that’s why.

This is good proof that the FNB was wrong when they said 20 ng/ml is as good as it gets. Remember the recent Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) said that levels of 20 ng/ml are just fine, do not expect any improvements with levels higher than 20 ng/ml. Keep in mind the NIH, especially the Office of Dietary Supplements, are against, not for, dietary supplements. They are especially sensitive to anyone implying the FNB study they helped fund is working against what they set to accomplish: to better the health and lives of individuals.

The authors failed to write even a sentence about dose, and I assume it is because Tufts University wants some more NIH grants. If going from 24 to 30 ng/ml showed such an improvement in insulin sensitivity, the obvious question is what would going from 24 to 40 ng/ml do? I don’t think the authors wanted to embarrass the FNB anymore than their findings already did.

3 Responses to Vitamin D may delay progression of clinical diabetes

  1. [email protected]

    I have known 2 friends from high school days and one poodle who developed type 2 diabetes. One friend (an epidemiologist) was always and still is a couch potatoe, and has never been more than 10 lbs overweight. The 2nd friend was a top-notch jock until his wife asked him to cut down on his athletic activities and spend more time at home and with her. He obliged and gained 50-80 lbs.
    The poodle was my dog, and he wasn’t fat, but he was a tad overweight. He developed diabetes, I think, because I didn’t see to it that he got a reasonable amount of exercise. Could Type 2 diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle be more positively correlated than “T2D” and obesity?

  2. lsmiley

    Another, often overlooked influence on insulin sensitivity, is sleep restriction. It is well documented that short duration 1-7 nights of sleep restriction impairs glucose metabolism. There is some suggestion in the literature that the sleep restrictions effect results in increased oxidative stress, wonder if this could be one reason for decreased Vit D levels. I haven’t found any long term studies on sleep deprivation such as chronic insomnia, etc… However, it is known that sleep restriction also alters appetite and the hormones that regulate caloric intake. So it seems, while obesity may be a causal factor for DMII, sleep deprivation which we know is increasing in adults and especially in children needs to be considered.
    Diabetes. 2010 Sep;59(9):2126-33. Epub 2010 Jun 28.
    Sleep restriction for 1 week reduces insulin sensitivity in healthy men.

  3. [email protected]

    As low Magnesium levels are associated with sleep deprivation and Mg is required for production of VitD3 and Mg levels in foods have reduced markedly in the last few decades, could this be the reason for the findings?

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