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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Can Vitamin D help prevent diabetes?



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.

Sources:

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. 

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