EVIDENCE: This Vitamin Could Hold Off Type 2 Diabetes

(ReclaimingAmerica.net) – Vitamin D supplements have been traditionally used to prevent bone loss and fractures. However, new research has discovered another potential benefit for those with pre-diabetes – it may reduce their risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes.

In three clinical trials, researchers found that vitamin D supplements were moderately effective in lowering the risk of pre-diabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes.

Over a three-year period, just under 23% of study patients using vitamin D developed diabetes, while 25% of those given a placebo developed the disease. On average, the study found that supplements reduced the risk of progression to type 2 diabetes by 15%.

The lead researcher, Dr. Anastassios Pittas of Tufts Medical Center in Boston, stated that the findings only apply to people at high risk and that the optimal dose of vitamin D for those with pre-diabetes is still unknown. He also emphasized that no supplement can replace the need for lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s cells no longer respond to insulin properly, causing blood sugar levels to remain persistently high. This can lead to complications such as heart, kidney, and eye disease, among others. Pre-diabetes is when blood sugar is abnormally high but not yet high enough to diagnose type 2 diabetes. In the US alone, about 96 million adults have pre-diabetes.

The study on vitamin D was motivated by the observation that diabetes is more prevalent in areas further away from the equator, which led researchers to consider that sunlight exposure, which causes the body to produce vitamin D naturally, may play a role in diabetes risk.

Further studies confirmed a link between vitamin D levels and type 2 diabetes risk, while lab research pointed to the potential of vitamin D to restore normal insulin production in animals.

Three clinical trials have directly tested the efficacy of vitamin D supplements in reducing the risk of pre-diabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes, with each trial finding that participants given vitamin D had a lower risk compared to those given a placebo. However, the difference was not statistically significant, making it challenging to declare the supplement effective. To overcome this challenge, Pittas and his team conducted a meta-analysis that combined the data from all three trials.

The meta-analysis, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, included over 4,000 adults with pre-diabetes, with half randomly assigned to take vitamin D. The analysis found that just under 23% of supplement users developed type 2 diabetes, while 25% of placebo users developed the disease.

While the difference may seem modest, the researchers pointed out that it has the potential to delay diabetes in 10 million people worldwide out of the 374 million people with pre-diabetes.

Dr. Isaac Dapkins, Chief Medical Officer of NYU Langone’s Family Health Centers in New York City, who was not involved in the study, stated that the results have given him the incentive to measure blood vitamin D levels in his patients with pre-diabetes. He emphasized the importance of overall lifestyle in halting the progression of pre-diabetes, but adding a vitamin D supplement could be an easy and low-cost way to provide further protection. He advised people with pre-diabetes to talk to their doctor and get a blood vitamin D measurement.

Pittas concluded that more work is needed to determine the optimal dose of vitamin D for people with pre-diabetes. In general, 4,000 IU per day, used in one of the trials, is considered the upper limit for vitamin D intake. However, Dr. Dapkins noted that very high levels of vitamin D can cause problems such as kidney stones, as the vitamin is stored in body fat.