A recent study looked at how vitamin D deficiency might be linked to diabetes. What the researchers discovered was surprising.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes tend to go hand-in-hand. In fact, type 2 diabetes is one of the main obesity-related diseases, also called metabolic disorders. This new research — published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism – looked at the connection between vitamin D, obesity and type 2 diabetes. It was a small study with around 140 participants, separated by Body Mass Index (BMI) and by whether they had diabetes, prediabetes or neither of these.
The researchers then measured each of the patients’ vitamin D levels.
They found that low vitamin D levels may be a stronger indicator of diabetes than obesity. Obese patients without diabetes had higher vitamin D levels than subjects at a healthy weight who did have diabetes. Vitamin D may be key in protecting us from diabetes.
Study author Manuel Macías-González, PhD said, “Our findings indicate that vitamin D is associated more closely with glucose metabolism than obesity.” He suggests that obesity and vitamin D deficiency work together “to heighten the risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The average person may be able to reduce their risk by maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough outdoor activity.”
Dr. Macías-González says that vitamin D deficiency and obesity “interact synergistically,” meaning that while one or the other could cause type 2 diabetes, if you’re both overweight and vitamin D deficient, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is much greater.
That sounds a little bit grim, but these results may actually be good news. The study suggests that making sure we’re getting enough vitamin D — from sunshine, fortified foods or by taking supplements — could protect us from diabetes.
The bad news is that around 75 percent of Americans are deficient.
The best way to find out whether your vitamin D levels are low is to ask your doctor to do a simple blood test. If you’re deficient or if you have low vitamin D levels, your doctor may recommend that you take a vitamin D supplement.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, it’s important to know that not all vitamin D supplements are created equal. In general, vitamin D2 is plant-based, and vitamin D3 comes from animal sources. But! There are plant-based vitamin D3 supplements out there made from lichen. Doctors tend to lean toward a D3 supplement, because this form of vitamin D is more readily absorbed, so it might be worth tracking down a plant-based D3 supplement to help get your levels up.
This new study is part of the mounting research linking vitamin D and immune health. Previous studies have also found that vitamin D may protect you from certain types of cancer, help your body fight the flu and support healthy pregnancy.