Research demonstrates that higher vitamin D levels are linked to lower diabetes risk. Vitamin D may play an important role in preventing diabetes by improving insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity in those patients that might otherwise be at risk for diabetes.
Dr. Anastassios Pittas, from the division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston, Mass. recently presented his findings to the American Diabetes Association.
The study involved 2,039 people and took over three years to complete. The study also focused largely on people who were considered pre-diabetic.
In the study, Dr. Pittas found that individuals with the highest serum level of vitamin D had the least chance of developing diabetes whereas those with the lowest vitamin D levels develop diabetes more than twice as frequently.
They determined that this was a dose-dependent ratio, meaning the more vitamin D you have in your daily intake, the better your odds of not contracting diabetes later in life.
The authors were cautious to state that it would be premature to recommend vitamin D specifically for prevention of diabetes until the randomized placebo-controlled trial of vitamin D for the prevention of type II diabetes can be conducted.
Though the study was validated as per the patient's lifestyle and a placebo was used in its methodology, the results still seemed favourable for the use of vitamin D and its implications towards treating patients that are considered pre-diabetic.
The Mayo Clinic states that Vitamin D is found in many dietary sources such as fish, eggs, and cod liver oil.
The sun also contributes significantly to the daily production of vitamin D. Vitamin D is synthesized by humans in the skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from sunlight. As little as 10 minutes of exposure daily is thought to be enough to prevent deficiencies.
The major biological function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones.
Recent research also suggests vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune diseases.
Rickets and osteomalacia are classic vitamin D deficiency diseases. In children, vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, which results in skeletal deformities.
In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, which results in muscular weakness in addition to weakened bones.
Populations who may be at a high risk for vitamin D deficiencies include the elderly, obese individuals, exclusively breastfed infants, and those who have limited sun exposure. Individuals who have fat malabsorption syndromes (e.g. cystic fibrosis) or inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Crohn's disease) are also at risk.
The importance of vitamin D supplementation cannot be ignored as it has been proven time and time again that this vitamin is essential to normal physiological function and important in boosting the immune system and preventing disease.