D for Diabetes

Date: 16 April 2018 

No, the “D” is not for “diabetes”. It stands for “vitamin D”. New research has shown that vitamin D could reduce inflammation in people suffering from diabetes. After randomised controlled trials were carried out by a research team from Monash University, Melbourne, the results showed that people with type-2 diabetes who received vitamin D supplements had lower levels of inflammation and improved overall health.

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the production and/or use of insulin in the body. Insulin is what helps distribute the glucose from food into cells, and if this process is hindered, it can cause too much glucose in the blood, also known as “high blood sugar”, or too little glucose in the blood called “hypoglycemia”.

There are about 60 million people in Europe with diabetes, and this number is steadily on the rise due to increases in obesity, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity. There are two kinds of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Of those afflicted, the elderly population are particularly susceptible to type-2 diabetes. In fact, by the age of 75, approximately 20% of the elderly population are afflicted with this condition.

Significance of vitamin D
Inflammation can often precede the development of diabetes, and chronic inflammation tends to be present in sufferers of type-2 diabetes. This new research by the team from Monash University suggests that diabetics could benefit from vitamin D supplements to reduce inflammation, which, in turn, translates to improvements in their overall health. In fact, vitamin D supplementation could even delay the progression of diabetes.

As with all breakthroughs, more research needs to be done in this field before vitamin D supplementation can be confirmed as a form of treatment or prevention for diabetes. The researcher do, however, stress the importance of getting enough vitamin D through diet and sunshine as an important part of any healthy lifestyle.

The primary sources of vitamin D are through exposure to sunlight and the consumption of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Small amounts of vitamin D are also found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.

Cutcliffe, T. (2018) Vitamin D could improve inflammation in type-2 diabetes: Meta-analysis. NutraIngredients.

Meneilly, G. S. and Tessier, D. (2001) Diabetes in Elderly Adults. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A 56(1), M5-M13.

Mousa, A. Naderpoor, N. Teede, H., Scragg, R. and de Courten, B. (2018) Vitamin D supplementation for improvement of chronic low-grade inflammation in patients with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition Reviews (76(5), 380-394. 

National Institute on Aging (2017) Diabetes in Older People.

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (2018) Vitamin D: Fact Sheet for Professionals. 

World Health Organization (n.d.) Diabetes: Data and statistics.