- Deficiency of vitamin D poses a great risk for developing diabetes
- Having blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D above 30 ng/ml can put an individual at one-third of diabetes risk and those with levels above 50 ng/ml at one-fifth of diabetes risk
- Individuals with 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 30 ng/ml are five times at higher risk for developing diabetes
Your vitamin D level may decide how prone you are to diabetes. A large epidemiological study has found that individuals who lack vitamin D are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. The study published in PLOS was published by a team from University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Seoul National University. PLOS One.
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble vitamin and the most important compounds in this group are vitamin D3 (also known as cholecalciferol). The active component of Vitamin D ( called 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol) is produced by the body through exposure to sunshine and helps with absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus in the body.
‘Blood levels of Vitamin D3 or 25-hydroxyvitamin that are above 30 ng/ml have one-third of the risk of diabetes and those with levels above 50 ng/ml have one-fifth of the risk of developing diabetes.’
Calcium is an important mineral for many of our body functions and for keeping our bones healthy. About 903 healthy adults (mean age: 74 years) who did not have any indications of either pre-diabetes or diabetes during their clinic visits from 1997 to 1999 were included in this cohort study.
The research team followed the participants through 2009, where the levels of vitamin D3 in the blood were measured, along with fasting plasma glucose and oral glucose tolerance.
During this period, there were about 47 new diabetes cases and 337 new cases of pre-diabetes, in which blood sugar levels were found to be higher than normal, but not as high as type 2 diabetes.
The normal estimated level Vitamin D3 or 25-hydroxyvitamin is 20 to 100 ng/ml and a level below 20 is considered as vitamin D deficiency. However, for this study, the minimum level of Vitamin D3 in blood plasma was 10 ng/ml above the recommended level identified at 30 ng/ml.
The minimum level of Vitamin D3 has been a point of debate for many years with some suggesting that this should be at 50 ng/ml, but the National Institute of Medicine has prescribed this to be at 20 ng/ml.
"We found that participants with blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D that were above 30 ng/ml had one-third of the risk of diabetes and those with levels above 50 ng/ml had one-fifth of the risk of developing diabetes," said Sue K. Park, first author and MD, in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea.
Cedric F. Garland, the co-author, DrPH, adjunct professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, said that people with 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 30 ng/ml were considered to be vitamin D deficient and were five times at higher risk for developing diabetes than those with levels above 50 ng/ml.
Garland has previously investigated the link between vitamin D levels, and various types of cancer said the study builds upon previous epidemiological research linking vitamin D deficiency to a higher risk of diabetes.
Previous epidemiological studies show that the distribution and determinants of various health and disease conditions and do not necessarily prove cause-and-effect.
"Further research is needed on whether high 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels might prevent type 2 diabetes or the transition from pre-diabetes to diabetes. But this paper and past research indicate there is a strong association," said Garland.
Garland and others had long advocated the health benefits of vitamin D.
In 1980, he and his late brother Frank C. Garland, also an epidemiologist, published an influential paper that showed that vitamin D and calcium together reduced the risk of colon cancer.
The Garlands and colleagues subsequently found the link between breast, lung and bladder cancers.
Garland said that to reach 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of 30 ng/ml; there is a need for dietary supplements of 3,000 to 5,000 international units (IU) per day, which is less with the addition of moderate daily sun exposure with minimal clothing (approximately 10-15 minutes per day outdoors at noon).
Currently, the recommended average daily amount of vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health is:
- 400 IU for children up to 1 year
- 600 IU for ages 1 to 70 years (less for pregnant or breastfeeding women) and
- 800 IU for persons over 70
Higher daily amounts of vitamin D are considered safe, but blood serum levels are exceeding 125 ng/ml have been linked to adverse side effects, such as nausea, constipation, weight loss, kidney damage and heart rhythm problems.