Most people realize that vitamin D is an essential nutrient that our bodies need for various reasons. The vitamin helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, critical for building healthy and strong bones.
Some studies have also shown that vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections, and slow inflammation. Vitamin D can also benefit diabetics and those with pre-diabetes, with recent talk stating that high doses can even help prevent diabetes.
A prevalent problem
In modern society, many people have difficulty getting enough vitamin D naturally. More people today than ever before work inside and/or live predominantly sedentary lifestyles.
Some people who live in certain parts of the world have limited sun exposure or comfortable outdoor time. Those with little sun exposure often become unable to produce the nutrient naturally and will need to supplement in order to raise their vitamin D levels.
Additionally, individuals with dark skin tones, endocrine disorders such as hypoparathyroidism, celiac disease, other inflammatory bowel diseases, liver issues, and any form of malabsorption should also take extra precautionary measures against vitamin D deficiency. This leaves large swathes of the population in need of increased vitamin D for optimum health.
The power of vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread, global problem, with approximately 1 billion people worldwide experiencing a potentially damaging lack of vitamin D. While studies have primarily focused on the effects of a vitamin D deficiency on bone health, there has been recent interest in the connections between diabetes and vitamin D. There have been emerging studies that show that a deficiency in the essential vitamin is connected to Type 2 diabetes. This connection is due to a deficiency disrupting the normal release of insulin by pancreatic b-cells, which are the cells that produce insulin. It is this insulin resistance that initiates diabetes in the body, a process the B-cells can counteract through increased production of insulin to prevent hyperglycemia.
However, the overactivation of B-cells leads to excessive cellular signaling and death through reactive oxygen species (ROS). Vitamin D is a known anti-inflammatory and can counteract this cellular death, helping people stave off this initial resistance and, therefore, fight back the emergence of Type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin D creates balance, helping the body maintain an average calcium level within the B-cells, supporting proper functioning. The recent revelations about vitamin D’s effectiveness in supporting good metabolic health could radically change the diabetic community, working to support the functional release of insulin for those in danger of becoming diabetics.
Diabetic patients are at an increased risk of bone weakening, which is why I recommend my diabetic and pre-diabetic patients take a vitamin D supplement as a preventative measure. Low vitamin D levels not only weaken bones but increases the risk of falls and fractures, possibly resulting in immobility and a worsening of diabetic symptoms, such as slow recovery from injuries.
One of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for diabetics and pre-diabetics is keeping active. Vitamin D contributes to muscle strength, which in turn can help those most in need of activity get moving and reap the benefits.
How much is enough?
So, if a person with diabetes wants to support their wellness and up their vitamin D impact, or someone wants to stave off diabetes altogether, how much vitamin D is needed? For those who already have a diabetes diagnosis, it’s imperative that they maximize their vitamin D intake.
While the standard recommended dosage is 400 IUs daily, research has determined that diabetic individuals should strive for 1,000-2,000 IUs per day to ensure adequate levels. Suppose your vitamin D levels are found to be severely deficient. In that case, your healthcare provider may advise you to take a higher dose of up to 5,000 IUs daily or 50,000 weekly to restore optimal levels. Though vitamin D toxicity is rare, it can happen, so it’s essential to have a doctor’s guidance while supplementing one’s vitamin D intake.
Vitamin D is not only the result of time in the sun or a straight vitamin D supplement. People can also get vitamin D infusions from certain foods, such as fish, certain dairy foods and milk, and beef liver. Cod liver oil is also a popular source of vitamin D. These options can be especially beneficial for those with fair skin who are concerned about too much sun exposure.
The multitude of benefits of vitamin D are well documented, but the medical community has just begun to scratch the surface of all of the benefits for diabetics and pre-diabetics. With further research and real-life application, vitamin D may prove to be a secret weapon against diabetes for millions worldwide.
Dr. Ahmet Ergin
Ahmet Ergin, MD, FACE, CDCE, ECNU, is a leading endocrinologist with a particular interest and passion for diabetes care. He is also the founder of SugarMD. Dr. Ergin completed his fellowship training at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. SugarMD, which draws on the experience that Dr. Ergin obtained from working with thousands of patients, is 100 percent focused on purity, potency, and, most importantly, consumer outcomes. The herbs and vitamins used in all of the SugarMD products are backed by science, research, and studies.