Vitamin D deficiency associated with increased type 2 diabetes risk

Being deficient in vitamin D could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study. The research from US and South Korean scientists builds on existing studies linking vitamin D deficiency to type 2 diabetes risk, but the mechanisms behind this association are not fully understood. The study team now plans to investigate whether supplementation could prevent type 2 diabetes or the transition of prediabetes to diabetes.

A cohort of 903 healthy adults were studied, none of whom had signs of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes between 1997-1999. They were then followed until 2009, with researchers periodically measuring their vitamin D levels and blood sugar levels. The researchers established the minimum healthy vitamin D level to be 30 nanograms per milliliter. Those found to meet that level had one-third of the risk of developing diabetes compared to those below this level, and those with levels of 50 ng/ml had one-fifth of the risk. 

Those whose vitamin D levels were below 30 ng/ml were found to be up to five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with the 50 ng/ml group. A strong association exists between vitamin D deficiency and type 2 diabetes risk, and it is believed that vitamin D can improve insulin sensitivity, while some researchers also theorize that vitamin D helps to regulate insulin production in the pancreas. Researchers are still aiming to establish a cause-and-effect or whether this is merely an association, although some studies have shown supplementation can help vitamin D deficient people with type 2 diabetes achieve better blood sugar control. 

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