We all know vitamin D is important for bone health. Yet, in the last few years, researchers have found the many roles vitamin D plays in our overall health. A study in Diabetes Care those with the highest levels of vitamin D were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Pittas of Tufts School of Medicine studied 2,039 participants in the Diabetes Prevention Program. This program looks at ways to prevent full blown diabetes in those diagnosed as pre-diabetic. After following these study participants for 2.7 years and periodically testing their vitamin D levels, they found those in the top one third in terms of vitamin D levels were much less likely to develop full blown diabetes.
What role would vitamin D play in diabetes prevention? One theory is that vitamin D might improve how the pancreas works. The pancreas is an organ in our bodies that produces insulin which is needed to get blood sugar into our cells. A study in 2011 published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sound that vitamin D promoted better functioning of pancreatic cells that produce insulin.
In a review of the literature, researchers at Tufts concluded that taking more than 500 IU of vitamin D a day lowered one’s risk of diabetes by 13% compared to those taking in less than 200 IU per day.
So how much vitamin D do you need each day? The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU of vitamin D a day for those under 70 years of age and 800 IU for those over 70. Two of the best food sources of vitamin D are milk which provides 100 IU per cup and most yogurts which are often but not always fortified with vitamin D (and vitamin A). One needs to read the yogurt label as some brands of yogurt have vitamin D and some don’t. My husband likes My Essentials yogurt from Food Lion and that is not fortified with vitamin D. I like Dannon Light and Fit yogurt and that is fortified with vitamins A and D. Eating yogurt is a healthy choice, but choose a yogurt that is fortified with vitamins A and D.
Another source of vitamin D is the sun. Our skin can make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Those worried about skin cancer from sunlight can note that it doesn’t take much sun exposure to get the vitamin D we need. Being outside for as little as 15 minutes three times a week in the noon day sun would be enough according to some researchers.
Vitamin D is becoming known for many important roles in our body besides bone health. Thus, we all should pay attention to how much vitamin D we are getting each day.
Vitamin D a Possible Tool in Diabetes Prevention, Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter, June 2012.
Sunlight: good, bad, effect. Dr. Donohue, Free Lance Star, July 6, 2011.