Vitamin D is best known for its role in preventing bone loss and fractures, but recent research suggests it may also help prevent type 2 diabetes in people with pre-diabetes. Studies have found a correlation between blood levels of vitamin D and the risk of type 2 diabetes, and laboratory research has shown that vitamin D can help restore normal insulin production.
The Scientific Backing!.. Three clinical trials were conducted to test the effectiveness of vitamin D supplements in reducing the risk of pre-diabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes. The results of these trials were modest, but a meta-analysis of the data showed that vitamin D supplements lowered the risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes by 15%.
Research Details.. The study involved just over 4,000 adults with pre-diabetes, half of whom were given vitamin D supplements while the other half were given a placebo. Over three years, just under 23% of the vitamin D group developed type 2 diabetes, compared to 25% of the placebo group. Although the difference was modest, the results suggest that vitamin D supplements could delay diabetes in 10 million of the 374 million people worldwide with pre-diabetes.
Significant Observation: However, the lead researcher, Dr. Anastassios Pittas, stressed that the findings only apply to people at high risk of type 2 diabetes and that lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, are still necessary to prevent the progression of pre-diabetes. It is also unclear what the optimal dose of vitamin D is for people with pre-diabetes, and more research is needed in this area.
The Clue!.. The study started with the observation that diabetes is more prevalent in places farther from the equator, suggesting that sunlight exposure and vitamin D production might play a role in diabetes risk. While vitamin D supplements are not a replacement for lifestyle changes, they could be a low-cost and easy way to get additional protection. People with pre-diabetes are advised to talk to their doctor and get their blood vitamin D levels measured.
Important!.. It should be noted that while 4,000 IU per day is considered the upper limit for vitamin D intake, high levels of vitamin D can lead to problems such as kidney stones. In the three trials, just over 1% of participants developed kidney stones, and supplement users were not at greater risk.
Overall, the results of the meta-analysis suggest that vitamin D supplements can have a modest effect in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in people with pre-diabetes, but further research is needed to determine the optimal dose and whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks.