Low Vitamin D and Risk of Diabetes
Recent research has demonstrated that low levels of vitamin D and diabetes are strongly linked. Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with a higher risk of being overweight BUT even if you are normal weight then low vitamin D levels are still linked with an increased risk of diabetes. (Ref.1)
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is sometimes known as the sunshine vitamin because we produce it from exposure to the sun. We also get vitamin D from oily fish, liver and eggs but in modern life these are eaten less than they used to be which in part cause the widespread levels of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D has long been known to be important in bone development but it is also involved in the biochemical cellular machinery of all your cells in the body. When you don’t have enough the cellular machinery doesn’t work very well, and your entire body will end up struggling to operate optimally in many widespread ways.
Who is at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?
The short answer is practically everyone – AT LEAST 50% of the UK population is deficient in Vitamin D.
At most risk are:
- the elderly – as we age we become less and less efficient at making vitamin D from the sun
- children under five
- overweight people – vitamin D gets stored in fat cells and the fatter you are the more vitamin D is locked up and unavailable.
- anyone covering up excessively from the sun – Australia is now seeing huge numbers of vitamin D deficiency since its “slip-slop-slap” campaign encouraging T-shirts, sun-cream and hats.
- pregnant ladies
- non–white populations- the darker the pigment of your skin the more sunlight you require to make vitamin D.
What Else Does Low Vitamin D Cause?
Low vitamin D is known to cause-
Rickets– yes this still does exist in the United Kingdom and is not just a memory from Victorian days – I have personally diagnosed two cases in my General Practice career. There were 833 children admitted to hospital in 2012 with rickets.
Osteomalacia – this is the adult equivalent to Rickets causing soft, painful bones and is also increasingly common.
Over and above these bone conditions it is now clear that that low vitamin D is also associated with increased risk of a number of other illnesses as well as increased diabetes risk as shown by the above research.
- Heart disease
- Multiple Sclerosis so addressing your vitamin D levels is clearly very important.
Why Not Simply Get More Sun?
In ideal world you would make plenty of vitamin D from exposure to the sun….
…we can only make vitamin D from the sun’s UVB waves not UVA waves.
UVB waves are easily absorbed in the atmosphere and so in the United Kingdom the sun is only high enough in the sky-
between April and September
between 11 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon
-for there to be sufficient UVB waves to actually make vitamin D.
It is extremely unlikely that UK summers allow us to make enough vitamin D to maintain good levels all year round.
Also…UVB waves do not not penetrate glass so you cannot make vitamin D with sunlight coming through a window –a blow for all indoor workers!
How Should You Supplement with Vitamin D?
It is very important when supplementing with vitamin D that you take the cholecalciferol form which is also known as vitamin D3 – supplementing with vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) form actually makes the deficiency state worse as it is not very active and then will block any D3 that you have from working.
(For more on the vital importance of choosing the right form of supplements please read my blog post “Supplements – avoid the usual errors”. https://nutricur.com/does-your-doctor-know/nutritional-supplements-avoid-usual-errors)
For optimal levels you should aim for a level around 100 nmol/litre –the majority of laboratory ranges in the UK suggest aiming above 50nmol/litre but this gives an adequate level rather than an optimal level.
The exact amount you require to achieve this varies from person to person. I do encourage you to get your levels checked. My experience is that many people need about 5000 units daily for a few months if they are deficient to get their levels up and then need around 2500 units daily to maintain their levels but always consult with your qualified health care practitioner.
It is important to remember that vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so it should be taken with food ideally as part of a meal containing fat which is usually your main meal of the day.
Take care of you!
Dr David Morris
Family Practitioner and Integrative Medicine Physician
1.Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Adipose Tissue Vitamin D Receptor Gene Expression: Relationship With Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2015; jc.2014-3016 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2014-3016
2. Holick MF; Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007 Jul 19;357(3):266-81.