Could low vitamin D plus obesity cause type 2 diabetes?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Could low vitamin D plus obesity be a setup for type 2 diabetes?
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Scientists have been closely studying the relationship between vitamin D status and a variety of diseases linked to deficiency of the so-called sunshine vitamin. Now there is evidence that boosting levels of the hormone might help prevent type 2 diabetes for obese individuals who find it difficult to lose weight.

Obesity and low vitamin D equals greater insulin resistance

Scientists know that obesity can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Now Drexel University School of Public Health researchers have found insulin resistance is even more pronounced among obese people whose vitamin D levels are low.

"Vitamin D insufficiency and obesity are individual risk factors for insulin resistance and diabetes," said lead author Shaum Kabadi in a media release. “Our results suggest that the combination of these two factors increases the odds of insulin resistance to an even greater degree than would have been expected based on their individual contributions.”

The study found obese individuals are 20 times more likely to have insulin resistance, but low vitamin D plus obesity was associated with a 32 times greater likelihood of insulin resistance.

One of the reasons vitamin D levels are lower when we gain weight is because it’s stored in the fatty tissue, making it unavailable for use in the body. The result can lead to heart disease, possibly cancer and other health conditions.

The study looked at vitamin D levels and indicators of insulin resistance among 5,806 survey respondents who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

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More studies are needed to show low vitamin D combined with obesity causes diabetes. If so, taking vitamin D supplements would be a low-cost easy way to help thwart type 2 diabetes, compared to weight loss that can be challenging.

Senior author Dr. Longjian Liu, an associate professor in the School of Public Health, explains though the study suggests there is a link between obesity and low vitamin D and increased insulin resistance that can lead to type 2 diabetes, "It's not clear whether obesity itself causes a low vitamin D level or if it's the other way around."

Focusing on a healthy diet that includes fish, a variety of colorful fruit, vegetables, whole grains and vitamin D fortified foods can help you maintain normal BMI, lose weight and provides the body with a balance of essential vitamins and minerals for optimal health.

A past study shows a vitamin D containing yogurt drink might also help prevent inflammation associated with the diabetes.

The best way to control diabetes is through regular physical activity, Liu adds. He also cautions that too much vitamin D can have side effects that include weakness and fatigue. Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to check your vitamin D level. The new study suggests obesity plus low vitamin D could lead to type 2 diabetes because of greater insulin resistance.

Source:
Diabetes Care
"Joint Effects of Obesity and Vitamin D Insufficiency on Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes"
doi: 10.2337/dc12-0235
June 29, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile

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