The WEIRD Connection Between Vitamin D And Diabetes
By Kevin DiDonato MS, CSCS, CES
For those who live in colder climates, I have some good news and bad news.
The bad news first: due to extreme winter conditions, it may be difficult to get ADEQUATE sun exposure to increase your vitamin D.
And the good news: only three more months until spring!
But seriously, there are plenty of ways to get vitamin D into your daily routine.
A multivitamin, low fat milks, Greek yogurt, and dark green leafy vegetables are some ways.
Increased vitamin D levels may improve your mood, mental clarity, and better control your blood sugar.
It has been shown that children who were overweight by 10, 20, or even 30 pounds may be deficient in vitamin D, possibly leading to chronic diseases.
Also, for those of you who are overweight, your risk of developing diabetes may increase significantly.
Let me explain…
Low Vitamin D and Diabetes
Two studies recently reported that low vitamin D levels may increase your risk for diabetes.
On the flip side, they also showed that INCREASING vitamin D reduced the risk and improved the function of specialized cells in your pancreas.
β-cells, that are located in your pancreas, produce and secrete insulin in response to rising blood sugar.
Diabetes is characterized by the destruction of your β-cells or the signal from insulin being weak and your cells not responding.
If your body is unable to utilize insulin, this may lead to spikes in your blood sugar.
So the blood sugar is unable to be transported into your cells to be used for energy.
When the function of your β-cell weakens, so does your ability to secrete insulin.
And this may spell bad news for your health.
Diabetes may lead to complications such as blindness, loss of body parts, resistance in your veins, and heart disease.
But vitamin D may reduce your risk for diabetes.
The right levels may even ELIMINATE your risk altogether.
Vitamin D and Your Risk
Researchers aimed to see if vitamin D may be associated with reduced risk for diabetes.
They recruited 1226 subjects between the years of 1996-1998.
They re-assessed 998 of those same subjects in 2002-2004, and again in 2005-2007.
They were testing for vitamin D and parathyroid levels, and tested blood glucose levels.
The results were ASTOUNDING!
They discovered subjects who had vitamin D levels at or lower than 18.5ng/mL, had a 12.4% chance of developing diabetes.
Compared to subjects who were HIGHER than 18.5ng/mL, who showed only a 4.7% risk for developing diabetes.
But it gets better!
Subjects with levels HIGHER than 30ng/mL, DID NOT develop diabetes.
They concluded people with increased vitamin D levels had a deceased risk for diabetes.
This may be due in part to vitamin D’s effect on β-cells located in your pancreas.
In another study, researchers determined that high vitamin D levels, positively affected β-cells in diabetic patients.
They recruited 92 adults living with diabetes.
The average age of the subjects was 57 with an average BMI of 32.
They assessed A1C, which is a blood test that determines blood sugar levels over a three month period, which averaged 5.9%.
They were given 2000 IU of cholecalciferol once per day or 400mg of calcium carbonate twice per day.
They noticed that increased vitamin D levels increased insulin secretion from β-cells.
They also noted the A1C in subjects receiving vitamin D increased SLOWER than subjects receiving NO vitamin D.
They concluded that increased vitamin D levels increased β-cell function and showed a slow increase in A1C blood tests.
Increase Your Vitamin D
Being 10, 20, or even 30 pounds overweight may increase your risk for chronic diseases.
It has been shown that people may be deficient in vitamin D, which may increase your risk for diabetes.
But there is good news!
Increasing vitamin D levels may reduce your risk for diabetes.
And, if you already have diabetes, increasing your vitamin D levels may lower your A1C levels and increase β-cell function.
The easiest way to increase your vitamin D levels is through sun exposure.
But if you live in cold climates, access to the sun may not be a viable option during the winter time.
Another easy way to increase vitamin D is by including a daily multi-vitamin in combination with foods fortified with Vitamin D.
So start increasing your vitamin D today!
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Gonzalez-Molero, I. Rojo-Martinez, G. Morcillo, S. Gutierrez-Repiso, C. Rubio-Martin, E. Alamaraz, MC. Olveira, G. Soriguer, F. Vitamin D and incidence of diabetes: A prospective cohort study. Clin Nutr. 2011. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.03.031.
Mitri, J. Dawson-Hughes, B. Hu, F. Pittas, A. 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. Vol. 94(2):pp. 486-494.
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