Vitamin D may protect young people from type 2 diabetes

Thu, 28 Mar 2013
Taking vitamin D supplements could help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes for obese children and teenagers, according to researchers from the University of Missouri.

The team conducted a study on 35 obese patients from the university's Adolescent Diabetes and Obesity Clinic, who all had a vitamin D deficiency and similar diet and exercise habits. The participants were randomly assigned to receive a daily intake of 4,000 IU of vitamin D through supplementation or a placebo for 6 months.

During follow-up visits, the researchers found that those in the supplement group not only improved their levels of vitamin D, but also reduced the level of insulin in their blood compared with the control group.

High insulin levels over a prolonged period affect the body's own sensitivity to insulin, causing a condition known as insulin resistance. Obesity is thought to be the principle cause of insulin resistance, which his almost always a precursor to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Study author Catherine Peterson, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU, said: "By increasing vitamin D intake alone, we got a response that was nearly as powerful as what we have seen using a prescription drug. We saw a decrease in insulin levels, which means better glucose control, despite no changes in body weight, dietary intake or physical activity."

"For clinicians, the main message from this research is to check the vitamin D status of their obese patients, because they're likely to have insufficient amounts," she added.

The researchers concluded that adding vitamin D supplements to diets "may be an effective addition to treating obesity and its associated insulin resistance" in kids and adolescents.

The findings support previous studies linking increased vitamin D intake with reduced risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
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