Last updated on January 27, 2018
According to Harvard Public Health, there are more than one billion D-ficient people in the world. People with inadequate levels of Vitamin D in their blood are more prone to bone-weakening diseases, however, vitamin D plays other important roles in health, especially when it comes to diabetics.
A known disease-fighter, vitamin D has shown to positively fight off a host of chronic diseases including some cancers, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and tuberculosis. In addition, vitamin D has a positive effect in ridding people of the seasonal flu, but even more importantly, research shows the vitamin’s ability to ward off more than just infectious diseases. Vitamin D can protect you from heart disease, a particular concern for many diabetics.
The leading cause of death in folks with type 2 diabetes is cardiovascular disease. Type 2 diabetics are usually twice as deficient in vitamin D than non-diabetics, which officially doubles their chances of developing heart disease. Experts say that approximately 26 million Americans currently have type 2 diabetes and that this number will only increase as the rate of obesity continues to climb.
A report in The Journal of Biological Chemistry shows one known contributor to the increase in cardiovascular disease in diabetics is a low level (less than 30 nanograms per milliliter of blood) of vitamin D — a vitamin that has been shown to effectively lower macrophage adhesion, the cells that are responsible for either clearing or clogging blood vessels.
These macrophage immune cells, which start out as white blood cells and circulate throughout the blood stream, are called monocytes. When monocytes encounter inflammation they are transformed into macrophage and no longer circulate in the blood stream.
With low levels of vitamin D, the macrophage were more likely to stick to blood vessel walls, triggering cholesterol levels and eventually resulting in stiffened, block arteries. However, when vitamin D levels were high, the vitamin works with macrophage by eliminating the dead tissue from fat cells, which results in a process that keeps arteries clear and clean.
Studies conclude that vitamin D is effective in reducing vascular complications by providing natural stress relievers that help promote vascular anti-inflammatory macrophage.
A decrease in insulin resistance
Insulin resistance and diabetes has been linked with low levels of vitamin D. Overcoming insulin resistance could be one effective way to ward off type 2 diabetes. A study headed by Preeti Kishore, MB, BS, an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, showed extremely positive results with vitamin D and overcoming insulin resistance in non-diabetics.
Her study group was given large doses of vitamin D every day for two months through an IV. Of her study results, Kishore notes, “two months of normal vitamin D levels improved hepatic insulin sensitivity (the liver’s responsiveness to insulin in the blood) by 37 percent.” Studies show that vitamin D may play an important function in glucose tolerance through its effects on insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion.
How much vitamin D?
The Institute of Medicine now recommends that North American children and adults up their intake to 600 IU per day. They also say that there is no medical harm in taking the upper limit of the vitamin, which is between 2000 to 4,000 IU per day.
The role of vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy levels of phosphate and serum as well as promoting the absorption of calcium. It is also required for bone growth, protection from osteoporosis, reduction of inflammation, immune and neuromuscular function, as well as cell growth.
Vitamin D sources
Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, which is why it is often taken as a health supplement. It is, however, produced endogenously when natural sunlight hits the skin and triggers synthesis. Vitamin D food sources include fatty fish flesh, including mackerel, salmon and tuna, cheese, beef liver, some mushrooms, egg yolks and fortified foods.