Vitamin D and Diabetes

Overview

Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin”, has come into the limelight recently because of its association with diabetes.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble Vitamin and plays a vital role in maintaining the health of bones, teeth, joints and assisting immune system function. It is produced in the body when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger Vitamin D synthesis. In addition, vitamin D can be consumed
through certain foods. The amount of Vitamin D needed on daily basis depends on your age.

Effects on Diabetes

There is growing evidence that vitamin D deficiency could be a contributing factor in the development of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and vitamin D treatment improves glucose tolerance (the ability to dispose glucose loads) and insulin resistance (impaired response of body to insulin).

Vitamin D is believed to help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin – the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels – and thus reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

According to researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) – having adequate levels of vitamin D during young adulthood may reduce the risk of adult-onset type 1 diabetes by as much as 50%. In type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes), the body’s immune system attacks and permanently disables the insulin-making cells in the pancreas.

It is not quite possible yet to correlate directly between Vitamin D levels and occurrence of Diabetes. As the role of vitamin D in helping to regulate blood glucose remains poorly understood, vitamin D status appears to play a role in the development and treatment of diabetes.

It is also possible that persons who have sufficient vitamin D levels are more likely to participate in outdoor physical activity, which would also decrease their risk of type 2 diabetes.

A study published in 2018, tied higher vitamin D levels to a lower diabetes risk. The researchers who performed the study over a period of 12 years found that, compared with people whose blood levels of vitamin D were below 30 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml), people with vitamin D levels of
30 ng/ml or more had one-third the risk for developing diabetes, and those with levels 50 ng/ml or more had one-fifth the risk.

The only way to be sure of your vitamin D level is by requesting a 25-hydroxy Vitamin D, or 25-OH Vitamin D, blood test. Ideally your vitamin D level should be > 30 ng/ml.

Sources:

  • International Diabetes Federation
  • American Diabetes association
  • Harvard School of Public health