Reversing Diabetes & Dietary Supplements | Natural Health Blog

Date: 07/01/2010    Written by: Jon Barron

Vitamin D and Diabetes

Vitamin D, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome

Score yet one more in favor of having fun in the sun. A new study indicates that lack of vitamin D may be a major factor in the development of diabetes, and as you probably know, sunshine provides one of the best sources of vitamin D. The research, which comes from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, found a startling correlation between Type 2 diabetes and lack of vitamin D. Of the 124 diabetic subjects aged 36 to 89 in the study, more than 91 percent were found to be vitamin D deficient or insufficient. Plus, the severity of the deficiency correlated to the severity of the diabetes. In other words, the more deficient the subjects were, the more out-of-control their diabetes was.

Both the director of the study, Dr. Esther Krug, and her colleagues nationwide warned the public not to jump to the conclusion that a vitamin D shortage leads to diabetes. Dr. Krug said, "Our study could not show cause and effect." She points out that people who have developed diabetes may simply neglect their health in general, foregoing sunshine and outdoor exercise, which could contribute to their vitamin D deficiency. Dr. Ritchie Mathur, M.D. of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles concurs: "At present," she says, "a direct link between vitamin D and Type II diabetes is not conclusively established. One important point that is missing... is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the general population, compared to those in the study."

Here's the thing. Studies have shown the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the general population to be around 36 percent. But the prevalence among diabetic subjects is so much higher -- almost 200 percent higher -- that a link between diabetes and vitamin D look plausible, in spite of the reticence among the scientists to admit it. In fact, seemingly practicing doublespeak, Dr. Krug also said, "This finding supports an active role of vitamin D in the development of Type 2 diabetes...Since primary care providers diagnose and treat most patients with Type 2 diabetes, screening and vitamin D supplementation as part of routine primary care may improve health outcomes of this highly prevalent condition."

The study also found that the hemoglobin A1c value was higher in subjects with lower vitamin D levels. This inverse relationship was even more pronounced among patients of color than among whites. Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) indicates how well the body controls blood sugar levels. It is a measure of the blood glucose concentration over the most recent 30 to 120 days. The higher the levels of HbA1c, the more sugar the red blood cells have been exposed to. So in other words, low vitamin D levels seem to have led to poor control of blood sugar levels over time.

Meanwhile, over in Holland, another study also found a link between vitamin D and diabetes, plus, it confirmed that vitamin D may play a role in developing metabolic syndrome. In that study, which followed 1300 subjects, all over the age of 65, about half had vitamin D deficiency, a percentage that still exceeds that found in the general population. Plus, 37 percent had metabolic syndrome, meaning that they had hypertension, high cholesterol, high blood sugar levels, and abdominal obesity -- a constellation of factors considered precursors to both heart problems and diabetes.

I've written before about the profound health implications of vitamin D deficiency -- beyond diabetes and skeletal problems. As I've said, vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in the development of various cancers, cardiovascular disease, psoriasis, Lupus, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, arthritis, lupus, and liver, and kidney disease.  A new study this year, out of Loyola University, found that vitamin D deficiency may even lead to depression over the dark winter months, and likewise, supplementing with vitamin D may lift mood.

The moral of the story seems fairly obvious. Get enough vitamin D. It can't hurt to supplement with 1000 to 2000 IU of vitamin D3 daily (taken with your largest meal), and it may even pay to have your blood levels of vitamin D tested, even if you assume you're fine because you frolic in the sun every day. In fact, a study of vitamin D levels in Hawaii in 2007 found that 51 percent of the 93 subjects were vitamin D deficient, even though these subjects had abundant exposure to sunlight year-round. The study authors wrote, "These data suggest that variable responsiveness to UVB radiation is evident among individuals, causing some to have low vitamin D status despite abundant sun exposure." Or perhaps, they were just using too much sunscreen.


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    Submitted by glen pershing on
    July 12, 2010 - 9:08am

    what is the besy vitimin d to take in suppliment form? d3 from china in dry pill form? fish oil , cod liver oil, is artifical v-d any good to take at all., is it dangerous to the body as some say?

    Submitted by Kung Fu Schools on
    July 18, 2010 - 11:10pm

    Thanks for sharing. Interesting because I was under the misconception that you only got Vitamin D from sunlight! Oops!

    And when diabetes is such a growing problem (economically as well) I can't believe that more about this link isn't being researched, tested and passed onto the general public.

    Oh wait ... that's the point : )

    Submitted by Mark Howard on
    August 25, 2010 - 1:13am

    Just to let you know that your vitamin D levels can be measured at Biolab (in London) for £42 - reports are sent to your doctor.

    Submitted by Pat Jones on
    July 12, 2010 - 1:17am

    Interesting article. Not an easy vitamine to obtain naturally.

    Submitted by Paul Gerst L.Ac. on
    July 11, 2010 - 2:19pm

    Hi Jon-

    I have a question regarding Vit D def. The study you mentioned at the end of your article states that in-spite of ""abundant exposure"" to the sun 51% of the subjects were still Vit D deficient. Is there a functional root to this or do you simply believe these subjects had poor diets?

    Also, as is so often the case in these studies, there seems to be a lack of variable identification and control. Wouldn't you think by now we'd have a better system in place to assure quality studies are executed? Even having ""sub-studies"" to address ""pop-up"" variables or secondary issues. And to have a better system would also come with a template to evaluate studies. Talk about a waste of money and something equivalent to being lied to...politics, religion and business have no place sticking their nose into Science. We ALL mention studies that support what we want to back, sell, own, convince, etc. It'd just be nice to have a deeper trust in them!

    Thanks for the great work you do. I enjoy reading your articles and respect your work!

    Paul Gerst L.Ac.

    Submitted by Salsify on
    May 2, 2011 - 5:01am

    Magnesium is needed to use D, and magnesium deficient people will become more deficient with sun exposure or supplementation. They may then feel worse and develop symptoms of other problems. Many oral Mg supplements are poorly absorbed. A quality "magnesium oil" used transdermally is the best way to restore Mg. Also check what foods to eat to maintain it, and read what other co-factors are necessary for D metabolism. A very informative site that shows how many conditions are affected by magnesium level is Because of soil depletion 95% of the population is Mg deficient.

    Submitted by Natural Health Supplements on
    March 31, 2011 - 2:45am

    Hello... Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement.

    Submitted by Kashmir on
    May 2, 2011 - 9:13pm

    Thanks for sending a valuable information on Vitamin D . I am suffering with diabetes since last ten years as I come to know after my blood test am also very much deficient in vitamin -D . As a patient I also feel vitamin D deficiency may contribute to diabetes.

    Submitted by Sandra on
    May 3, 2011 - 1:45pm

    Just thought I would mention that the lack of Vitamin D in diabetes cannot be the whole problem. My husband is a diabetic type 2 and was born in the Bahamas (me too)and received maximum amounts of vitamin D because of the sunshine there almost year round. Also the fresh fruits and vegetables along with it, and he drank lots of fresh milk which is rich in calcium so something is still not right with just the lack of Vitamin D.

    Hi Sandra,

    You are absolutely correct, vitamin D is only one factor. Feel free to check out all of Jon's articles on diabetes for a more comprehensive approach.


    The Baseline of Health Foundation

    Submitted by Brian J Moore on
    May 4, 2011 - 5:39pm

    You do not indicate the ages of both your husband and yourself but it is a well known fact thatas you get older your skin cannot assimilate Vit D from sunlight as it did when you were younger. Because you must have a continuous supply of the vitamin the only way is to take 2,000 I U (50mcg) per day to reach the amount you need.
    It is neeeded for both skeletal requirement and the protection of cell structure within your body. It proects your bones in osteoporosis and arthritis.
    I am 78 and take it daily to alleviate pain in my arthritic knees and it makes treatment of Diabetes Type 2 more manageable.
    Whilst your husband drank lots of fresh milk, for the calcium, he still needs 'D' for optimum health.

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